Friday, January 10, 2014

Ban the R-Word...

I was at Walgreens today (technically yesterday, I guess) to pick up some photos and I heard a lady with her daughter walking by me on her way out say something. I didn't catch the full sentence but I heard the words "He is just so retarded."

I've never been so disgusted by a stranger. And while I'll admit that Liberty isn't the classiest town (and there's no use in denying it, we've got like 12 banks) and that some of the "kids" in this town aren't the most mature, but I was incredibly dumb founded that a middle-aged woman, in front of an impressionable child, say a word in such a demeaning and ignorant context.

Sometimes you slip up. We're human. Everyone makes mistakes, I get it. I'm guilty of slipping up too. But it's the fact that people throw the word around like it doesn't mean anything that gets my blood boiling.

If there's anything MASC taught me, it's that you should respect and love everyone no matter their cognitive level, sexual orientation, race, religion, etc.

Not tolerate. I hate that word. Tolerance. Saying you "tolerate" someone implies that they are beneath you, but you'll let them continue their mediocre way of living. You tolerate a bad attitude. You tolerate body odor. You don't tolerate someone being something they didn't ask for.

Because I won't deny that a mental handicap is something that most people wouldn't want. You don't sit in your mother's womb and say "Yeah. I think I'll be handicapped."

Some people will argue that the R-word is a valid medical term, and I can't deny that at one point it was.

However, the fifth (and most recent) edition of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders states has since replaced the phrase "mental retardation" with the term "intellectual disability disorder."

And for good reason.

The website campaigns and asks for people to pledge that they will eliminate the R-word from their vocabulary, and here's a few reasons why (that I totally stole off of their site and I hope they don't mind because I can't word it any better than they did):

The R-word is EXCLUSIVE“What’s wrong with "retard"? I can only tell you what it means to me and people like me when we hear it. It means that the rest of you are excluding us from your group. We are something that is not like you and something that none of you would ever want to be. We are something outside the "in" group. We are someone that is not your kind. I want you to know that it hurts to be left out here, alone.” – Joseph Franklin Stephens, Special Olympics Virginia athlete and Global Messenger 
The R-word IGNORES INDIVIDUALITY“Words matter. People don't need to scoff at others to make a point. Everyone has a gift and the world would be better off if we recognized it.” – Tim Shriver, CEO of Special Olympics
The R-word equates intellectual disability with being DUMB OR STUPIDWhen saying the R-word, “What we mean is that he is as stupid as someone who is mentally handicapped, and we mean that in the most derogatory sense. The implication is that the only characteristic of mentally handicapped individuals is their stupidity.” – Crystal, Stanford, CA  
The R-word spreads HURT“It is wrong to pain people with your language. Especially, when you have already been made aware of your oral transgression's impact. Make no mistake about it: WORDS DO HURT! And when you pepper your speak with "retard" and "retarded," you are spreading hurt.” – John C. McGinley, actor and star of the hit TV show “Scrubs”
The R-word is OFFENSIVE“The word retard is considered hate speech because it offends people with intellectual and developmental disabilities as well as the people that care for and support them. It alienates and excludes them. It also emphasizes the negative stereotypes surrounding people with intellectual and developmental disabilities; the common belief that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities should be segregated, hidden away from society, which, in my opinion, is really old fashioned.” – Karleigh Jones, Special Olympics New Zealand athlete  
The R-word is INCORRECT“When you say the "R" word it makes people feel bad and it hurts my feelings and I don't want to hear you guys say it. Instead, you can call me a leader, a hero, or a human being, but please don't call me the "R" word.” – Dony Knight, Special Olympics Oregon athlete
The R-word is DEROGATORY“Because the word has become a casual description of anything negative or flawed, ‘retarded’ is no longer considered an appropriate way to describe people with intellectual disabilities. And any use of the word, even when used as slang and not intended to be offensive, is hurtful - because it will always be associated with people who have disabilities.” – Sara Mitton, Board Member, Treasure Valley Down Syndrome Association
The R-word fosters LONELINESS“It hurts and scares me when I am the only person with intellectual disabilities on the bus and young people start making “retard” jokes or references. Please put yourself on that bus and fill the bus with people who are different from you. Imagine that they start making jokes using a term that describes you. It hurts and it is scary.” – Joseph Franklin Stephens, Special Olympics Virginia athlete and Global Messenger  
The R-word is HATE SPEECH“I don’t think you understand how much you hurt others when you hate.  And maybe you don’t realize that you hate.  But that’s what it is; your pre-emptive dismissal of them [people with intellectual disabilities], your dehumanization of them, your mockery of them, it’s nothing but another form of hate.  It’s more hateful than racism, more hateful than sexism, more hateful than anything.” – Soeren Palumbo, student, advocate, brother to a sister with an intellectual disability.  
The word hurts, and is surely not to be used as a way of inflicting harm. Because even if it isn't directed at someone with an intellectual disability, calling someone or something retarded is assuming that they group you're comparing them to is intellectually inferior. 
They're smart like you and me. They have feelings like you and me. They have dreams like you and me. But most importantly they too are human like you and me.
And nobody has the right to make anyone feel like they aren't human. 
I really hope I managed to get a point across with this post. It's a topic that means a great deal to me and a lot of my friends. 
If you would like to learn about spreading the word to end the word, or take the pledge to eliminate the r-word from your vocabulary (which would be the coolest thing you could do and takes so little time) you can find everything you need at the link I put at the bottom of this post.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and I hope all of you have a wonderful day/evening/night/ whatever time of day this piece found you!
Love always,
And, as promised, the link!

1 comment:

  1. Tyler,
    I love this entry. It's so true! I have cerebral palsy and I've heard this word all of my life. I hate it. People need to be more open-minded. Thank you for writing this!