Anyone that knows me knows that I hate the abuse and misuse of the word retarded. It’s so offensive. I hear it a lot from kids and teens, they are the ones I always take the time to try and explain why it’s wrong and offensive. And I hear it from adults, many of whom say “I don’t mean it that way”. I try and explain why it’s hurtful to them. Some listen (or pretend to). Others say I’m not hurting anyone, I don’t mean it to be mean.
Well, I know how I feel when I hear someone misuse the word retarded. I can only begin to imagine how someone with Down syndrome feels when they hear it. To be picked on and ostracized by people that don’t even know you personally, just because you have an extra chromosome. To be treated as though you can’t have an opinion. To hear implications that you aren’t smart. Those things must hurt an awful lot. I have a child with Down syndrome and I know that I still can’t give the proper words and give the feelings he must feel justice.
Well, there is someone that can. For anyone that thought people with Down syndrome couldn’t have an intelligent thought or conversation, I have something to say to you. Well, many things, but I’ll go with this one – you couldn’t be more wrong or farther from the truth.
John Franklin Stephens, a Special Olympics Global Messenger, and a man with Down syndrome by the way, has written an article that was published today on Huff Post. The article is entitled “I Am the Person You Hurt When You Say the R-Word“. He explains how use of the word retarded hurts him and others. It is truly magnificently written. It’s brilliant. The analogies he uses describe how I feel perfectly. It is worth the two minutes it will take you to read it. It’s truly the best post I’ve read in a very long time by anyone. Anyone who thinks people with Down syndrome don’t understand things that are being said needs to read this. Anyone who thinks people with Down syndrome can’t think intelligent thoughts needs to read this. And above all else, anyone who misuses and abuses the word retarded needs to read this.
If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll take the pledge to not use the r word. Just click on “pledge now” on the right hand side. You have no idea how much of a difference you as one person can make.