Monday, January 9, 2012

The "R" Word

This post is tough. Not everyone agrees with how I feel about the word retarded. I used to be one of those people. Things change.

When I was a kid, it was a thing to slap your hand and forearm against your chest in a flopping manner and talk with a forced speech impediment. That was supposed to be a burn, a joke, calling the person you were talking to retarded. I don't know if kids still do it, but the thought of it now makes me cringe.

I've said this before, I used to use the word retarded in such a way that it was a slur. When you take the word and use it out of context it takes on a negative connotation. Now people will say they would never refer to a child with MR as retarded. This baffles me. Yes, they have changed all the labels, do you know why? Because the word retarded has taken on such a negative connotation. Now it's a put down, a way to call someone stupid, to refer to yourself as forgetful, etc.

The odd thing is how vehemently people will argue to be able to continue using this word in a hurtful way. Arguing syntax, arguing definitions, posting the dictionary entry. The word has it's place in engineering, mechanics, music, etc. Not to describe how silly you feel for forgetting your lunch. Not to call someone stupid. I suppose this is piggy backing on me posting a blog link on my wall to "Herding Cats." It's a blog written by a woman whose daughter has MR and how people use the word retard or retarded in an insensitive way. I linked it to my facebook and all Hell broke loose.

My son doesn't have MR.  He's got Spina Bifida, hydrocephalus, a VP shunt, a neurogenic bladder, hydronephrosis in one kidney, reflux, texture issues with feeding, a hydrocele (hernia), and he lacks the dorsi flexion in his feet he needs to walk properly. He's already been referred to as retarded by ignorant people. He has had multiple surgeries, has OT, PT, has had UTI's, been hospitalized, and goes to the doctor so much that everyone at the front desk knows him. He has to fight so much, just like all special needs kids. These kids fight EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. for things most people take for granted. Why do people want to add to their fight by throwing around a word that can cut so deeply?

That's why I'm so passionate about ending the use of the word retarded as a put down or way to describe how slow you are getting started in the morning. I'm a special needs mother and I want to advocate for the whole community.  

Why would you argue to continue being able to say something that can be so hurtful? This is the part that truly confounds me. Is it selfishness? Is it the perception of being told what to do? I don't understand it. I can't imagine anyone giving an explanation that would justify this in my mind. That's where I leave this post, I drew my line in the sand and it makes me mad as Hell that we even have to have a line. If you disagree with me, that's fine for you but this is not an agree to disagree situation for me. This is a deal breaker. I'll not suffer fools on this issue.