Saturday, October 27, 2012

31 Days of Awareness: "R" word

Stop the "R" Word

The R-word is the word 'retard(ed)'. Why does it hurt? The R-word hurts because it is exclusive. It’s offensive. It’s derogatory. The R-word is hate speech.
When they were originally introduced, the terms “mental retardation” or “mentally retarded” were medical terms with a specifically clinical connotation; however, the pejorative forms, “retard” and “retarded” have been used widely in today’s society to degrade and insult people with intellectual disabilities. Additionally, when “retard” and “retarded” are used as synonyms for “dumb” or “stupid” by people without disabilities, it only reinforces painful stereotypes of people with intellectual disabilities being less valued members of humanity. 

The R-word, “retard,” is slang for the term mental retardation. Mental retardation was what doctors, psychologists, and other professionals used to describe people with significant intellectual impairment. Today the r-word has become a common word used by society as an insult for someone or something stupid. For example, you might hear someone say, “That is so retarded” or “Don’t be such a retard.” When used in this way, the r-word can apply to anyone or anything, and is not specific to someone with a disability. But, even when the r-word is not said to harm someone with a disability, it is hurtful.  -

"Why do you care so much?" -- I care because of my son. I know he'll never remember the looks, the stares, and the hurtful words sent his way, but I will. Let me tell you of just one instance in particular. (There have been many.) We (my husband, Alvin, and I) were out for lunch. Alvin was just over a year old, and still in his cranial band. We were enjoying our meal, when a waitress stopped over to ask about Alvin's helmet. We were jovial and answered all her questions. She went to the next table, where the couple she was serving announced loudly that they'd like to be re-set because they didnt want to sit next to a disabled child. Rather than tell those people off, the waitress said "I agree. People need to learn to keep their retards at home and hidden from the public." I'm sure Eric thought I was going to harm the waitress because he took me out and locked me in the van. I called the manager later in the day (after I'd called down enough not to swear) and the manager said he'd talk to her about it. Nothing was done. I waited a week for 'something' to happen. Nothing did. I was still so furious that I started writing letters and emails to corporate managers. Eventually, the waitress was fired.  This was our first (and sadly not our last) into people calling my sweet boy that word. We have still never eaten again at that restaurant chain.

I don't want my son to grow up in a world were he's made fun of because of his disabilities. I dont want my children to grow up in a world where people use those disabilities as a joke to tease other children. I certainly don't want my son to grow up in a world where quasi-celebrities use it to degrade their opponents.

Please, visit R-word, and help us spread the word to stop the word.