The R-Word

So this is a slight departure for me.  A Very Serious Topic.  And no, I’m not talking about the budget battle currently going on in Wisconsin (don’t get me started on that hoopla).  I’m talking about The R-Word.  Or Retard, as you may know it.

The R-Word has always been offensive to me, since my little sister has Down syndrome.  Listening to kids (and their parents) day after day use the word retard just because it’s funny, or just because they can, or just because they want to feel better about themselves makes me sick to my stomach.  When you look at the beautiful faces of people with disabilities, how can anyone even think about using it?

Me and Tom with my sister and brother

The R-Word has become so commonplace in our society that most people, even grown adults who should know better, use it without even thinking.  Retard does NOT mean stupid, but that’s how it is used in everyday conversation.  There’s an n-word and an f-word and all kinds of other words that are not allowed in polite society, so why should the R-Word be any different?

The difference is that people who are offended by the n-word or the f-word fight back.  People with disabilities are often incapable of fighting back, either because they cannot speak or they cannot articulate themselves so that others understand.  There are many self-advocates who fight every day, and they are amazing people.  But the remaining thousands of people with different abilities in this country rely on us to help them fight back.  Sadly, too often our society turns its back instead of fighting for what’s right.

There is a movement started by Special Olympics called Spread the Word to End the Word, and it asks people to pledge support for eliminating the demeaning use of the R-Word.  Please visit today, and make your pledge.  One more person can make a difference and help us take a stand.  I hope you will pledge with me to stop the use of the R-Word in everyday conversation, and make a point to call out others who use the R-Word inappropriately.

For a shameless plug, Tom and I also published a book in 2009 about what it’s like to have a sibling with Down syndrome called Walk With Me:

End soap box.

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