I had a realization today, and it's one that's difficult to admit, especially as a mom of a child with special needs.
Here it is:
If I were chatting with a group of people (moms at the playground, folks in line at Starbucks, strangers at a friend's party) and someone used the n-word in conversation, I would have an immediate reaction. After the shock wore off, I would either say something, or shoot the person a horrified look and leave the conversation.
If I were chatting with a group of people and someone used the word f-ggot in conversation, I would have an immediate reaction. After the shock wore off, I would either say something, or look horrified and leave the conversation.
If I were chatting with a group of people and someone used the word "retarded" in conversation, I would have cringed, stared off into the distance, and probably waited a few minutes before leaving. No confrontation, no horrified look.
Well, until today. Now that I've had time to reflect on it, I've come to some conclusions.
1. I'm a believer of First Ammendment rights.
2. I'm also a believer of making hateful words socially unacceptable.*
*note: socially unacceptable does not meaned banned. It means that it's frowned upon by the mainstream, the same way that the other words above are shunned.
"Retard" and "retarded" are words that are used hurtfully (aside from some specific scientific circumstances), usually to describe behavior that is stupid, clumsy, or hopeless. Whether it's intentional or not, the word retarded conjures up a painful stereotype of people with intellectual and developmental disabilties.
Today is "Spread the Word to End the Word" Day. The idea is to spread the idea that the word retarded is hurtful, with the hopes of minimizing the casual usage of it.
I truly believe that "retarded" is used so casually because some people genuinely don't think twice about it, and haven't thought about the fact that it's painful for many people to hear, just as the other slurs I mentioned are painful for many people to hear. So I'm saying, think twice please. It's hurtful.
(And if you think "I'm just joking around with my friends, it's not hurting anyone"---you never know who might have a family member or a friend with special needs and might be cringing inside.)
Asking people to spread awareness of their disdain (or disgust, depending on the severity of your feelings) for a word is not unprecendented. And it can work, as each person who choses to not use the word, or to express their displeasure at it, helps to shift the collective vocabulary. I couldn't even bring myself to fully type the n-word or f-ggot because they are simply too hateful for me . . . clearly, there are words that are socially unacceptable.
Do you agree? Sign the pledge.
Spread the word to raise awareness that "retarded" is a hurtful word. Share your opinion when it comes up in conversation, or send out an email/tweet/FB status in honor of today.
If you would like to help spread awareness, but don't want to be too preachy about the whole thing, then feel free to share the link to this post on Facebook, or email it to friends. I would be happy to do the preaching for you :)
Oh, and if you'd like to read more about what another mom did to help spread the awareness, check this out. (It was a little confusing to me because I don't totally get the whole twitter thing, but pretty cool nonetheless.)