A Little Something Extra

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Spread the Word to End the Word

I’ve been meaning to post about this subject for a while now and I just haven’t committed the time it deserves. And I don’t have the time right now either. But the timing is right. Today is 03-03-10. More on that below.

So… some history. Rahm Emanuel (White House Chief of Staff) used the term, “f-ing retarded,” to describe some individuals with whom he disagreed. Sarah Palin called for his resignation (um, a bit extreme). Then Gov. Palin gave Rush Limbaugh a pass when he used the word “retard” repeatedly in a radio broadcast the following day. ARE YOU SERIOUS? (Hey, look, Rahm… I made an emphatic statement without using either the f-bomb OR the r-word!). Then Family Guy had an episode that included a girl with Down syndrome (whose mother was the governor of Alaska) on a date with a “typical” boy, which you might think would be a GOOD thing (she has a typical life, etc.) except that the song associated with the segment was terribly derogatory.

This isn’t about politics. And I don’t think it’s even about the words themselves (though I do wish that I never again would hear someone talk about something or someone being retarded). I think it’s more about a lack of respect for individuals with disabilities, similar to the attitude expressed by our president almost a year ago when he stated that he bowled like he was in the Special Olympics.

So, why work to get the words “retard” and “retarded” out of our vernacular? Because when you say, “That’s so retarded,” I hear, “That’s so Micah.” Because somewhere in that phrase, there is a base understanding of the cultural derivation of the word "retarded," which used to be a medical word used to describe those who are mentally challenged. The medical community rarely uses it anymore due to the negative meaning in our culture. Even if it’s self-deprecating (“OMG, I’m so retarded!”), you're trying to express that you just did something stupid... you know... like someone who is intellectually disabled. I really like how TUC explained it here.

And can you picture the scene… while throwing a baseball with his young son, our next door neighbor tells his son, “Stop throwing like you’re retarded” (I’m still thankful that Nathan did not witness this event). What, exactly, is he telling his son? And what is that boy going to do with that word next year? What about when he is with his friends at the movies? Will he put a Micah through a similar situation that Patricia Bauer’s daughter faced? (I told the story back in August 2008)

There’s lots of blogging being done about this. And I have to say that I’m more than a little ticked off at Gov. Palin for caving in to partisan politics on an issue that is not partisan.

Today 03-03-2010 is “Spread the word to end the word” day (I think it’s supported primarily by the Special Olympics). I could share lots of links here. But I’ll keep it to a dull roar and link to this article in the Huffington Post by John McGinley (think Scrubs) and a video he did for the campaign.

Could you please stop using the word? It does hurt. I understand… it’s “just slang” to you. But it’s not to me.  And it won't be to Micah someday either.


Andrea @ Unfailingly Loved said...

What else can I say, Jennie, other than BRAVO? You were gentle and yet firm -- and I appreciate your veracity and your strength. Using the "r" word is definately wrong -- and people need to be held accountable. It is a hard job to stand up for what is right -- and I commend you, friend!

Leslie said...

Three cheers ... good job Mom and Dad. Raising a child with special needs is challenging but oh so rewarding. Keep the faith and know that there are mature individuals out there who believe the "r" word should be classified as a swear word right up there with the other really bad ones!!! In our house "stupid" is considered a swear word as well.

I work in a sever and profound elementary classroom and to see these kids grow, learn, and mature is the best job in the world and I actually get paid to do it.

paige said...

Good post, Jennie - i'll be honest here - i'm still personally working on this one... But at least i've gotten to the point where i notice when i say it - & i've made it my goal that everytime i do use it, i need to correct myself *out loud* - my husband has heard me correct myself quite a few times in the last few months since i decided to get it out of my vernacular.

Angela said...

Hey Jennie-
I feel exactly like you do on this one. Even though I don't have a child with special needs- I find the word so unbelievably offensive when people use it slang. Even as a teenager, I NEVER used that word. I used to shudder when I heard it- NOW I just speak up and tell people that it's offensive. Here's the thing about people... when they use language in a way that is in any way derrogatory or offensive to others, they- THEMSELVES- are expressing a level of social and moral retardation. I just simply cannot understand how people can keep it in their vocabulary. The ignorance is appalling. And as offensive as I find it when people use the term, I can only imagine how you must feel. I am in your camp, Jennie. On behalf of all the idiots out there, I'm so sorry you have to hear that word being used that way. Know that there are people like me who will stand up and advocate for people like Micah, my nephew and others who the "world" may see through a blurry lens- but whose potential, beauty and value I can see with clarity.

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