Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The message is worth repeating

This picture is old, but the message is worth repeating:
March 4 is a national day of awareness led by the Special Olympics.  It's designed to end the use of the r-word (retarded) in popular slang.  When the word "retarded" is used as a synonym for "stupid" or "foolish," it is insulting to individuals with intellectual disabilities. 
Over the years, I've heard the word "retarded" thrown around by friends and acquaintances and I honestly don't think anyone intends it to be hurtful.  I don't think people usually realize the association between an insult like "that movie was so retarded" and my daughter and sister.  Historically, the word "retarded" was once a diagnostic term to describe an intellectual disability, like Down syndrome.  It has since been incorporated into common vernacular to be used as a put down.
How does that sound to me?
Josie and Leanne have Down syndrome.  Down syndrome is characterized by a degree of mental retardation.  It's not a bad thing.  People with mental retardation can learn; but it just may take them longer.  It doesn't make them inferior - they just learn at a different pace.
You say: "That movie was retarded"
You mean: That movie was stupid/idiotic/foolish
Suddenly a term once used to describe a condition that my daughter and sister possess; a condition they cannot help; a condition that makes them different - but not less than - those without it, is suddenly equated to stupid...idiotic...foolish.
You simply said you didn't like a movie.  You certainly didn't mean to call my sister an idiot.  I get that.  But it stings.  Because she's not an idiot; and she did not ask to be a slower learner.  In fact, she works twice as hard to achieve tasks that we take for granted.  And she does it without complaining.  I think that makes her pretty darn admirable; not an idiot.
So what am I asking of you?  Remove the word from your arsenal of slang terms.  If something is stupid, call it "stupid," not retarded.  It's that simple.

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