Monday, April 14, 2014

Are You Retarded? No You Are.


Okay, so before I begin a post which I think might am sure will offend a lot of people. I want to just try to earn a little credibility here. I have 4 dear friends, one of them a co-worker, with children on the autism spectrum. My two best friends both have an aunt with Down Syndrome. Another very close life long friend has a daughter with Down Syndrome. I am good friends with several of special education and resource teachers who I know are in the trenches every day. And I have a daughter with a disability. Hers is mild, and there is no reason to believe that she won't go on to have a long and happy life, but there are days when I'm not sure if she will ever be able to live on her own. I know that my struggles and heartaches pale in comparison to the others in my life who have a member of their family with a disability. But I know what that pain feels like. 

Even without this life experience, I was raised from a young age to treat others with kindness and respect. I have spent all of my adult life being aware of appropriate labels. People aren't autistic. They have autism. The same goes for Down Syndrome. When referring to someone with a disability, I go out of my way, to phrase my words in such a way that it is clear that one is not defined by their disability. I know it doesn't seem like a big deal. Maybe you think I'm splitting hairs. But I only needed to be called a "seizure mom" once before I realized that making certain clarifications are important. 

Not only that, but I am really proud of my kids who see everyone the same. They look for others who are lonely and hurting and reach out to them. My kids have been known to be the only ones who will sit by another child who makes a mess when he or she eats. When others are disgusted, my children are helpful and kind. They use appropriate labels as well.

What I'm trying to say is, I'm hypersensitive about this stuff, okay? And I'm pretty sure I'm not alone. In fact I know I'm not alone. I have learned a lot from friends about how to be kind and open minded. In my experience, most people are good people. And most people have been raised with good manners and they choose their words carefully when it comes to referring to people with disablilites.  And I'm grateful for it. Sure it makes things complicated.  But I'm not saying anything that everyone doesn't already know. In my experience, most of us are careful. 

 That is why I am a little confused about the "Spread The Word To End The Word," campaign. If you haven't heard of it, do a quick youtube search. One can pull up dozens of heartfelt PSA's that will remind you to be extra sensitive, because this is important.  And there are so many of them, that I guess this is still a problem? But really, who are these losers who are still calling kids with disabilities retarded?  That is a sincere question, I am genuinely curious.

While I appreciate any effort to raise awareness, I prefer the Louis CK Approach. Wait wait. Please, don't click on that link it contains explicit language. I am specifically talking to my Aunt Amy, My grandmother, my Bishop, and my brother Dallin and maybe my Dad. Mom, you can go ahead and watch. Everyone else, if you are really curious but want to avoid the really bad stuff, just watch the first 20 seconds, you'll get the gist. 

I'm thinking of starting up a campaign that is much more nuanced. We would be essentially taking back the word retard. I've already done it in my home and it has gone over quite well. Do you know when the last time my sweet tolerant socially conscious kids heard the word 'retard?' It was probably this morning. They hear the word occasionally and they don't associate it at all with a person who might have a disability. They associate the word retarded with stupidity. 

Examples: 

*Jonah brushes his teeth and then comes down stairs and eats 9 Oreos= Retarded. 

*Every day the bus driver, who I am feuding with, stops the bus 25 feet away from me regardless of where I am on the sidewalk, just so she can have the satisfaction of watching me walk to the bus so that I will remember who's really in charge.= Retarded

*When he hears a woman say, "I'm on maternity leave," Peter responds with, "Oh, when are you due?"= the baby was born 2 months ago, what are you, retarded?

*When you are in college, and have the opportunity to learn about anything under the sun, you choose to spend 3 hours a week taking a racquetball class because, "The goggles are hilarious." And then you get an 'F.'
Emily hates this word, but, retarded.

*Eliza, being told to go upstairs and get her shoes on, but instead she comes down wearing her pajamas= This is tricky, if it is because she get preoccupied with selfies, well that's retarded. But if she has a small seizure on her way up the stairs and gets confused. That's not retarded, that's just Eliza doing the best she can. 

*My brother Elliot leaving Chinese food in his back pack for 3 days and then deciding to eat it. 
=Retarded

* I don't know who you are, but I'll figure it out. 
'cause you're retarded.


*Peter announcing that he hates spaghetti but he loves linguini, as he eats the spaghetti that I told him was linguini.= Retarded.

*Half the recipes on pinterest= Retarded.

* People who say, "Cray Cray."= Retarded

* The finale of Lost= Retarded

* Some insecure moron at school seeing another student with a disability and calling them a retard= Retarded. 

I could go on forever but I think you get the point. So who's with me?  I want a real effort to disassociate the word retarded from people who have disabilities. There may be reasons why this is a really bad idea, I know. I can't think of them, but I'm sure I haven't thought through this enough to actually post it. But the word is just so descriptive. And if we outlaw retarded, then kids will just come up with other mean words. Instead let's keep retarded and use the word against people who use the word inappropriately. 

7 comments:

mandorama said...

I fully support this!

Matt said...

I don't have the cred to comment strongly on this, but it sounds good to me. Don't get me started on the "ban bossy" thing. I OWN that word.

Matt said...

by the way, it wasn't Matt, it was me Chrissy.

Ashby said...

I am totally with you on this one! And 1000% YES on the finale of LOST. I'm still upset over that retarded ending.

Cat said...

Oh no! I say "cray cray"! Okay, but if I do it ironically, am I still retarded?

Heather said...

Video game players, I mean gamers, I mean "people who play video games", make this same argument for using the word, "gay" to mean stupid.

I get that they aren't actually referring to or probably even thinking about homosexuals when they call some noob whose pet pulls the boss gay, but it still irks me.

Either way I am hoping your campaign succeeds because I have an awesome T-shirt that says "YOUR RETARDED" that Kent won't let me wear to the gym anymore.

The Watkins said...

Hear, hear. Don't tell me it was Brother Wiswell who gave you an F?