I am late to this game but I’ve taken time to figure out my own views on this. Just when I thought I knew what I was going to write, I wanted to talk to Emelie and get her viewpoint. I wanted to see if this has ever affected her. What she had to say broke my heart as a mother, made me angry as a human being, and it makes me want to protect her all the more. Her words and mine make up this blog.
Let’s end the use of the “R” word. For those of you who are looking at that “R” going what word exactly is that, it’s retard. The dictionary definition of it is: retard 1. a slowing down, diminution, or hindrance or Slang, Disparaging and Offensive reflecting 1. a contemptuous term used to refer to a person who is cognitively impaired or 2. a person who is stupid, obtuse or ineffective in some way.
Not a very nice word to throw around. Not a word we should be using in today’s society. I’m not a big fan of political correctness but in this case, it’s not about being politically correct. It’s about being sensitive to others. Whether you like a person or not, you aren’t privy to what they may or may not deal with in their family lives or what may be going on with them personally. For all you know, they have a condition that they struggle to overcome and you are feeding that self doubt. Even more so, if they have a family member that is considered by society’s standards to be in that “R” category.
I went and talked with Em tonight and asked her what she thought of the word. She doesn’t like it and doesn’t think it shouldn’t be used. I asked her if she knew what it meant and she did. There was sadness in her eyes that I couldn’t walk away from. The conversation that followed was this:
Me: Em. Are you ok? Does this conversation bother you?
Em: *sigh* Yeah. I’m ok. I just don’t like that word. It makes me sad and angry.
Me: Has someone ever called you a “retard”?
Me: Oh. Does it happen a lot?
Em: Ummmm… sometimes. Sometimes I get called it a lot. It really depends on the day and the people and what’s going on with them.
Me: I’m sorry about that sweetie. Are they joking when they say it?
Em: I don’t know. I have a hard time with it because there are days I struggle with are people joking or serious.
Me: Well, how does it make you feel when someone says that to you?
Em: What call me a “retard” or tell me that I’m “retarded”?
Em: *sigh* It makes me feel disposable.
Me: Disposable as in not valued or worthless?
Em: *nods her head*
Me: Well, what do you think of when people call you that?
Em: When someone calls me that, I think that they must not like me.
Me: What if they are someone you call friend?
Em: *shrugs* I guess they really aren’t my friend are they.
Me: I’m so sorry sweet girl. *hugs*
Em: Mom, can we talk about something else?
Here is a girl who struggles to understand language and social cues. Who works hard to try and be the best she is, but feels devalued when someone uses that word in association with her. She has a fragile self view and chants she is epic and adorable and awesome just to remind herself she is more than what others think of her.
When we use this word, we undermine the value someone sees on themselves. To casually use it as a slang that something is dumb or stupid makes it worse. Just use the words dumb and stupid instead. You are less likely to offend someone and chances are it will make more sense.
I never want to see that sadness on my daughter’s face ever again. I don’t want to see that look in the eyes of anyone else ever again. We as a society must change the mindset associate with this word and individuals with cognitive (seen and unseen) disabilities.
Do you want to sit with Em and have that conversation? I hope not. Retire the word already. It’s immature and really insensitive.