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Friday, September 21, 2007

Stop saying retard!!!!

So if there is one word in the English language our family hates, it is the word "retard". Well, I guess we don't hate the word itself but the way people use it.

My sister, brother and I grew up constantly exposed to mentally disabled people. Both my mom and step-father worked at a home for mentally disabled adult men and from the time I was three or four, we spent a lot of time with them. We would go on camping trips, play games, work at the annual fair with them, whatever. This taught all of us that the mentally disabled are just like us. They can do things we can do, they can feel and laugh, and love. We have used these lessons our whole lives when presented with people who are different than we are.

I have always tried to instill these lessons in Princess Ivi as well. When I was a paralegal at a large home (institution) for mentally disabled adults in Florida, Princess Ivi attended the on-campus daycare. Her best friends were a blind girl, a little girl with cerebral palsy, and a little boy with Down Syndrome.

When we learned my sister's baby (now 2 1/2 years old) would be born with Down Syndrome, those lessons we learned were invaluable. We knew he would be able to love us and we knew we would love him. We knew he would be able to learn things like tying his shoes, riding a bike, playing soccer, everything we could take the time to teach him. He is the reason we moved to Massachusetts from Florida. Because we wanted to be with him as much as possible.

I remember shortly after he was born Princess Ivi was at the Boys and Girls Club and they had gone to the local pool to swim. There was a group of kids at the pool all of whom had Down Syndrome. The other girls from the B&GC started teasing them and making jokes about them. Of course, Princess Ivi wouldn't stand for it and quickly put them in their place.

Since moving to New England, we hear the hated word (see above) used on a regular basis. Here it is used as an adjective, i.e., "this ret**ded computer", and as a derogatory remark, when one person calls another a ret***. The latter is especially common in Princess Ivi's middle school. According to her, all the students say this. The teachers don't stop them. This to me is very sad. Is it a northern thing? Is it just slang? Are those really good excuses for such inexcusable behavior?

I don't think they are. I think this word should not be used and it is our job as parents to make sure we teach our kids how inappropriate the word is. Here is a link to a speech given by Soeren Palumbo to his high school student body regarding this issue. ( He also gave a speech to the Illinois State Senate about the use of the word "retarded".

Please listen to these speeches and then work to stop this word from being used to describe, ridicule, or joke about the mentally disabled. Work to stop this word from being used to pick on a so-called normal student by comparing them to a so-called abnormal, stupid, different, special or "SPED" student (another term I dislike).

People with mental disabilities are just like us in many ways. However, they aren't just like us because most of them can't defend themselves when words like these are used. It is up to us to defend them. Please do your part and involve your friends and family in this as well.

Okay, I am stepping down from my soapbox now.

***Edited on 9/5/08: There seems to be some confusion by some people who read this post. For clarification, I am not criticizing people who refer to someone who is mentally retarded but I am criticizing people who use "retard" as an insult or people who say something is "F-ing retarded".


Lolita said...

the kids around here say it- even adults do.
one word i hate is gay - they say it the same was the do the R word. Thats so gay, or thats so gay looking. or your acting gay.

Well.. how does gay act? what does gay look like?

my brother has cerebral palsey ( i still cant spell it!) so i was taught early not to use that word. My step- son who also has CP, uses the r word... :-# explain that. i guess hes allowed?!?

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more. I've always thought I was wired differently because I embrace special needs, my brother has CP, I would gladly adopt a special needs child, I HATE the r-word (as I refer to it) as well as saying "gay" as a substitute for "stupid" and all of those immature, offensive words. I can say here and now that if I were to give birth to a special needs child, I would love that child with all of my heart. I would not cast my child aside, or wish they were "normal". I would cherish the child I was given and do everything I could to give my child the best life possible. Thank you for posting this blog. I live in MA and I hate going out in public because it's guaranteed that I'll hear the r-word as you described more times than I can count. It needs to end. It never should've started in the first place.