Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Why it's Personal

Last year, for Spread the Word to End the Word, I asked people to stop using the word "retarded." I explained my points as to why I wanted them to do so and I asked them to take a pledge to use respectful language around people like my son, and to stop using that awful word.

Well, I'm asking again. There will be a link at the bottom of this page for you to visit. You can easily click and take a pledge to stop using the word "retarded."

But this year, I'm wanting to explain further why I'm asking.

You see, that word is personal for me. I flinch when I hear it on Family Guy, the several times I've heard it on movies, the hundreds of times I heard it on American Horror Story season 2, and whenever I hear it come out of someone's mouth. I'm fond of saying, "If it's not about you, don't make it about you," but with this, I can't help it.

I don't  flinch any less when someone says, "that's so GAY" or "You're a fag" "What faggot."

I volunteer at a Title One school in Louisiana. We have the distinction of being one of the more ethnically diverse schools in our parish. And yet, I don't hear the kids yelling, "You nigger!" "I can't be your friend because you're a spic!" "Nope, we can't play 'cause you're a dothead/raghead." "I feel like such a beaner, today." If they do say this, it's usually because their parents have taught them, and that's wrong. But I rarely hear those words.

Now, if you want to tell me that you would never say those words I just typed up above because they're hateful to groups of people, consider that the word "retard" is very hateful to my group- people with special needs and those who love them. I can't speak for us all, but I'm speaking for my friends and me.

For some reason, it's not okay to be overtly racist and use that sort of terminology in society. People (even racists) don't do it unless they're in packs, I've noted. But saying retard? Sure! Everyone is welcome, right?

Wrong. And honey, this isn't about freedom of speech, this is about respecting other people. Period.

I'm the mother of a child who, despite him being able to make his own sandwiches and just now learning to tie his shoes at the age of nine, might always live with me. He still needs assistance with bathing, prompts to get ready because he forgets, and he's vulnerable because of how he trusts people.

His exceptionality on his IEP is listed as "autism," and scored  data indicates he is borderline intellectually disabled- or, as some have called him, retarded. More data shows that he might never catch up to his peers and be "on level."

He is also sweet, was recently picked as Mardi Gras King at his school by random selection, is well loved, and makes my heart swell with pride every time he grasps a concept or (without prompting) holds the door open for someone and says "ma'am." He does that last one quite a bit, he's charmed the daylights out of the teachers and staff at his school.

It's easy to put a face on the minority groups I mentioned before something racist or xenophobic flies out of your mouth, isn't it?  Maybe you have a gay brother, sister, or cousin like I do to hold you in check before you state anything homophobic. I actually have a conscious.

In case you need help putting a face to the word retard, however, here's my son.  
My Mardi Gras King and me. Isn't he handsome?
He's not a retard. Borderline intellectually disabled? Possibly. But we've moved along with the times, and I suggest others do the same. 

It's a bitch to be sitting on the wrong side of history.

Click here: to take the pledge