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Spread the Word

Posted Apr 01 2009 12:30am

Ni@@er. Kike. Guinea. Dune Coon. Blanket A$$. Wet Back. Chink.

These are words that wound. They hurt.

They are words you wouldn't dare utter in public.

However there is one word still used today that is used on a daily basis, probably every 30 seconds or faster.

By definition, the word retard means

–verb (used with object)
1. to make slow; delay the development or progress of (an action, process, etc.); hinder or impede.
–verb (used without object)
2. to be delayed.
3. a slowing down, diminution, or hindrance, as in a machine.

This is by the standards of But they also give another definition when used as a noun:

4. Slang: Disparaging.
a. a mentally retarded person.
b. a person who is stupid, obtuse, or ineffective in some way: a hopeless social retard.

Did you notice that a mentally retarded person is grouped in the same disparaging category as a person who is stupid, obtuse, or ineffective in some way? I did.

Now take a minute to do an image search on the word "retard". Any search engine will work. Google, Yahoo, Internet Explorer. Take your pick.

What images did you come up with? I know that you came up with at least 20 pictures of a person who has Down syndrome. You also saw the picture with the caption "Arguing on the Internet is like running in the Special Olympics. Even if you win, you're still retarded". Even Encyclopedia Dramatica has an entry. (** I wouldn't look if you don't want to get seriously pissed off**) doesn't paint a very pretty picture either. According to them:

Intellectual disabilities happen because the brain gets injured or a problem prevents the brain from developing normally. These problems can happen while the baby is growing inside his or her mom, during the baby's birth, or after the baby is born. Many times, though, doctors don't know the cause.
Here are some problems that can cause intellectual disabilities:
  • The mom gets certain infections or sicknesses while pregnant.
  • The mom takes certain medicines, illegal drugs, or drinks alcohol while pregnant.
  • There's a problem with the baby's genes, which are in every cell and determine how the body will develop. (Genes are inherited from both parents, so a baby might receive genes that are abnormal or the genes might change while the baby is developing.)
  • During childbirth, the baby doesn't get enough oxygen.
  • After being born, the baby gets a serious infection.
  • Any time in life, a serious head injury can hurt the brain and cause intellectual disabilities. Some of these disabilities are temporary and others can be permanent. (That's why it's important to wear your bike helmet and always wear a seatbelt in the car!)
In the medical sense, Aiden is both mentally and developmentally delayed. Once Aiden begins kindergarten, the school district will want to do an IQ test on him. By educational standards, if he "scores" at 77 or below, he will be classified as "mentally retarded". The lower the score, the more services he qualifies for. Which is somewhat backwards. Ask a loan officer if your credit score is lower than normal if you get better interest rates. The higher your ACT or SAT score, the more universities and colleges want you. Even in sports, the team with the lower score isn't the one taking home the trophy. But that is just my opinion, I could be wrong.

There is a push to change the medical term "mentally retarded"  to "intellectually disabled". I don't necessarily agree with that. In my mind, "disabled" means "unable to".  Aiden isn't "unable" to do anything. He WILL do the things he is trying so hard to do, it just takes him longer to do them. Hence the term "retarded" fits more than "disabled".

Aiden is far from stupid, obtuse or ineffective in some way. Quite the contrary. He can solve problems. Stupidity can not learn. Aiden CAN learn.

The most we can do as parents is to educate.

One time when Aiden was in the hospital, Chris and I were going up to the floor he was on. In the elevator was a woman and two men. One of the men was acting goofy. The woman laughed and said, "Never mind my brother. He's retarded." My response? "Really, so is my son. He has Down syndrome." The woman apologized for her remark.

Another time, I was in yet another elevator going to a meeting. A woman tripped over her own feet. Her response, "My feet are so retarded!" I politely said, "That is not a word we use." This woman knows my child. She knows his diagnosis. She knows the stigma behind the word. She is a teacher! Once she thought about what she had said and realized to whom it was said, she apologized. She said that as a teacher, she should know better. I agree, she should have known better.

I often pose the question to people who use the word flippantly. "Do you think Aiden is retarded?" And I mean it in the same sense they meant in using it. To be stupid. Of course the answer is always "no". No one considers a child with a cognitive or learning delay to be "retarded". My God, that would be wrong! But yet, when I explain that calling someone "retarded" is laying the path stones for making fun of someone with intellectual disabilities, they are taken aback. Well, they should be.

If you let the word slip out of your mouth, without thinking, while making fun of something stupid, someone is going to hear it. That person then says it, thinking it is okay. Another person hears it and so on. The human vocabulary can be a vicious cycle. Before you know it, your child is calling my child a "retard" on the playground and um, I AM going to have something to say about it. And no, you probably won't like it.

A conscious effort has to be made.

Which is why, the Special Olympics Committee has began the "Spread the Word to End the World" Campaign. To stop the unconscious use of the word "retard" in it's derrogative meaning. It's happening right now. Across the United States, people on college campuses, in high school cafeterias and workaday offices are working to “Spread the Word to End the Word.” The goal: make people stop and think about their hurtful and disparaging use of the word “retard.”   

What It's All About
Spread the Word to End the Word is raising the consciousness of society about the dehumanizing and hurtful effects of the R-word and urge people to pledge to stop using it as an insult, casual or intended.  ( Take the pledge right now! )

"The earlier we can start teaching this awareness, the easier it will be to reverse the language, " wrote James Saetern of Sacramento, California, in an e-mail to Special Olympics. "This is not just a day of awareness, but a movement to end hate as a whole."

What's Going On Today
There are more than 700 events and activities happening throughout the United States – and around the world. Celebrities and just plain folks are putting on Spread The Word T-shirts ( order one for yourself ), buttons or stickers or making signs and placards and banners to make it clear that usings the word "retard" as a term of derision is just as cruel and offensive as any other slur.

One visitor to the site said it well: "It was a commonly accepted term when I was growing up and is handed down from generation to generation like all strange sayings that never die and kids keep saying every year. Well, I have chosen to break the cycle and am teaching my kids how wrong it is."

How It Started
Created by young people with and without intellectual disabilities, Spread the Word to End the Word is one element of Special Olympics’ vision of a world where everyone matters, where everyone is accepted and, most importantly, where everyone is valued. Leading the way in promoting acceptance of people with intellectual disabilities, Special Olympics opposes prejudice and discrimination, continuously working to dispel the negative stereotypes associated with this population — the use of the R-word being one such stereotype. In a world that has worked to eliminate pejorative racial and ethnic language such as the “N word,” among others, the R-word is gaining popularity.

Today, young people across the country are leading local efforts to raise awareness and collect pledges on from peers and the community to vow not to use the R-word. Actor and activist John C. McGinley, of the hit show “Scrubs,” is helping with this effort by making national media appearances on behalf of the campaign.

Stop using the word in everyday conversation. It is easy to do. JUST DON'T DO IT! If someone uses the word in your presence, educate them. You have that right. It's offensive.

Ni@@er. Kike. Guinea. Dune Coon. Blanket A$$. Wet Back. Chink. Retard.

These are words that wound. They hurt.

They are words you wouldn't dare utter in public.

Take the pledge.
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