Sunday, March 2, 2014

The "R" Word Swap

There are plenty of great and positive words that start with the letter R. Responsible, radiant, reliable, rich, romantic, ravishing, refreshing, reasonable, right... and of course, my favorite R word of all time; RESPECT.

 But, sadly, there is another word, an ugly, mean, negative and degrading word, that also starts with R.

Retard, or retarded.

It pains me to even type it.

I have always felt uneasy when it came up in conversation. Growing up, it was a commonly used word by peers and adults when describing something stupid that happened, or something that didn't go right. Sometimes, it was even used to describe how a person was acting.

When Anthony was born, that word took on a whole new meaning.

I am so scared that one day, someone might use it to describe my amazing son. I'm scared of the whispers, and the looks that people might give when he walks into a room. Just thinking about that happening brings a deep shooting pain to my heart. I want to be able to protect him from the world, but what if I cant?

Last week, I heard the R word three times. There were two shows that used the word, and each time I heard it I was surprised and quickly changed the channel. But, the first time I heard it used by a person telling me a story, I wasn't ready for it. That was the first time since Anthony was born that someone said it around me. When it was said, I shot my husband a look, and without any words we had our own conversation. Did you hear that? Yes. I heard it too. Should we say anything? I can't believe it. That really hurt. 

We didn't say anything.

I know the person didn't mean to use it to describe a someone, they were using it to describe a situation. But, it all is the same to me. It hurts because people DO use it to make fun of individuals with intellectual disabilities. So really, what is the difference? Any way you spin it, it's a word that is always used in a negative way.

I mentally checked out the rest of the night. I felt like I was going to break down at any given moment. When we got to the car I lost it. I cried because I felt sad, but I mostly cried for Anthony. I don't ever want him to feel that he is different, and I am scared that one day he might be hurt by that word.

What if there comes a day when Anthony, or his siblings, come home from school having heard that word. What will I say if they ask me what it means? How will I look at my beautiful boy and tell him about that horrible word? I am so afraid of that. 

There is a man named John Stephens, and he is much braver than I am. He did not stay silent when he heard someone use the R word, instead he decided to do something about it. He has accomplished a lot in his life but I think what he should be most proud of is being able to stand up for those that might not have the ability to stand up for themselves. Like Anthony, John was born with Down syndrome. I hope one day that Anthony will be as strong as this young man. Thank you Mr. Stephens for being an amazing role model for my son, and for me!

In 2012, Ann Coulter tweeted something that sparked a whole lot of controversy. She went on a rant about President Obama and called him a retard. When the public responded with shock and disgust, instead of apologizing she said, “Look, no one would refer to a Down Syndrome child, someone with an actual mental handicap, by saying ‘retard.’ Where do you think the words ‘imbecile,’ ‘idiot,’ ‘moron,’ ‘cretin’ come from? These were all technical terms at one time. ‘Retard’ had been used colloquially to just mean ‘loser’ for 30 years.” 

Well, John Stephens did not let that remark go. He responded with powerful words that reached and inspired thousands. His letter to Ann Coulter brought me to tears. He so eloquently was able to put such an ignorant person in her place.

"After I saw your tweet, I realized you just wanted to belittle the President by linking him to people like me.  You assumed that people would understand and accept that being linked to someone like me is an insult and you assumed you could get away with it and still appear on TV.
I have to wonder if you considered other hateful words but recoiled from the backlash.
Well, Ms. Coulter, you, and society, need to learn that being compared to people like me should be considered a badge of honor."- John Stephens
Yes, Mr. Stephens! Yes indeed! 

I think that the world IS changing, and the R word is not being used as frequently. BUT, I pray for a day that it is not used at all anymore. I think that if we all take a stand like John Stephens, maybe in our own small way we can make a difference. I am upset with myself that I just let it go and didn't say anything when I heard it the other day. I have to have a voice for my son, and I will no longer accept such an ugly word. I propose a change.... a swap. If you ever catch yourself using that word out of habit, stop and think. Think about my son's innocent face. Could you look at him and call him such a disgusting word? Let's challenge others to swap R words. Instead of using the negative R word, I hope as a society we can think about Respect. If we can teach and practice Respect, than the world might just become a better place. A place where everyone is accepted. 

No comments:

Post a Comment