This is my sister.
Lauren is one of the coolest people I know. She has a job, she has friends, she loves music and dancing, takes martial arts and dance lessons, and participates in Special Olympics year-round. She is smart, funny, sensitive, and strong.
She is not a retard.
I know I’ve written about this before on this blog, but today is a special day. It’s a national day of recognition to end the use of the “R-word.” And I’m not talking about using the word in it’s proper context, which is saying someone is mentally retarded (although that terminology is woefully out of date). I’m talking about using the word retard on purpose to make fun of yourself or someone else. I’m talking about using the word where you mean to tell someone else that they are as stupid as someone with disabilities, and you’re using it in a derogatory manner. That is not okay.
Words have power. Words spoken without thinking can end friendships and destroy families. They can make you feel like you’re on top of the world, or they can make you feel like the smallest person on earth. And just because my sister has Down syndrome doesn’t mean that she can’t understand what you’re saying, or that she can’t understand the meaning behind your “joke.” If you have children, they listen to everything you say. And if you say it, they think it’s okay as well. We perpetuate the cycle of fear and ignorance by pretending that the rules don’t apply to us. “Oh, I didn’t mean to call people with disabilities stupid, it’s just a word.” But your words have power in ways you cannot imagine.
Today, as you go about your daily life, take a millisecond to stop and think before you speak. Do I really want to say what’s about to come out of my mouth? Who am I hurting with my words, even if they are not in front of me at this moment? Who is listening to me that might be influenced by what I say? Maybe if we all took that extra time to think, our world would be a much better place for everyone.