Saturday, March 21, 2009

R is for Respect

There are a lot of lovely words that begin with R: rain, radiant, read, reassure, recipe, reconcile, recycle, reflect, refuge, rejoice, relax, remember, rescue, resilience, reunion, reverie, revive, rhapsody, rhyme & romance.  

There are also a lot of ugly words that begin with R: racism, rage, rancid,  rat, reek, reject, renege, reprehensible, repress, repugnant,  revenge, ribald, ridicule, rigid, rotten, rubbish, rude & ruthless.

It's time to ban the ugliest R word from our vocabulary: retard.  

President Obama appeared on the Tonight Show this week and compared his bowling ability to the Special Olympics.  He apologized for the remark before the show aired and Special Olympics Chairman Timothy Shriver called it a teachable moment for the entire nation. Should the President have known better?  Sure.  Was he trying to be purposefully hurtful?  I don't think so (because those folks don't apologize).  Was he insensitive?  Sure. To me, it just shows how commonplace statements like this have become. The majority of people who use the word "retard" or "retarded" probably aren't even hearing the word when it comes out of their mouth, never mind connecting it to a real live person.  It's become a synonym for ignorant or doofus.  You hear this word every day, everywhere, from people of all ages. I'll admit that I used to say it when I was much younger and much much much stupider. I never gave a thought to what it really meant and I'm ashamed of that now.  It's a slur, plain and simple. And it hurts.  

It's also very inaccurate.  People with special needs are not retarded in their capacity and capability to love just like the rest of us. They are not retarded in their ability to learn, just like the rest of us.  They can function in the world and be productive members of their community, just like the rest of us.   However, people with intellectual disabilities and other special needs may not always be able to articulate their feelings. When they can't, it's up to us, the ones who love them, to say it.  It hurts everyone in our society when you use this word or otherwise treat them as 'less than.'  

From now on, let's use all the lovely R words more often.  Help eradicate one ugly one.  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

AMEN!! Thank you for sharing such a succinct, intelligent position on something that is so offensive. I agree 100% and wish everyone would wise up and stop using this word.