Before Adele, the word 'retard' didn't mean all that much to me and I probably wouldn't have gone out of my way to correct somebody. I may have given them a dirty look, but would not have approached them and told them that I am disgusted by their choice of words. It is not a word that I ever used, because I found it to be disrespectful and hurtful and as I travel this journey with Adele, I find that it is used by many in everyday conversation, used without hesitation.
Since Adele, this word has a whole new meaning. When I hear others use it, I let them know that it hurts and make it known that you sound uneducated and ignorant. There are so many other words you can use instead of 'retard'.
I've had some friends tell me that they aren't using it to describe Adele or other children, but are using it to let others know that they are being stupid or dumb. Hmmmmm......
This is the thing, the word has only one meaning.
Delay or hold back in terms of progress, development, or accomplishment.
It is a word that has been used to describe our children and at one point in time, it was widely accepted. The medical profession used the word to label those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Over time, the usage of this word has dramatically changed. It is used as slang and used to insult others. It is hurtful.
When you say....
"I was so drunk, I was retarded. It hurts.
"Stop driving like a retard. "It hurts.
"You're acting like a retard." It hurts.
"My kids are acting retarded." It hurts.
"What a retard." It hurts.
"Oh my gosh, that is so retarded." It hurts.
"When you talk like that, you sound retarded." It hurts.
John Franklin Stephens, a man from Virginia with Down syndrome who serves as a “global messenger” for the Special Olympics. He has written op-ed articles giving lucid voice to thoughts you may never have heard before:
“The hardest thing about having an intellectual disability is the loneliness,” he once wrote in The Denver Post. “We are aware when all the rest of you stop and just look at us. We are aware when you look at us and just say, ‘unh huh,’ and then move on, talking to each other. You mean no harm, but you have no idea how alone we feel even when we are with you.”
“So, what’s wrong with ‘retard’?,” he asked. “I can only tell you what it means to me and people like me when we hear it. It means that the rest of you are excluding us from your group. We are something that is not like you and something that none of you would ever want to be. We are something outside the ‘in’ group. We are someone that is not your kind.”
(The New York Times)
Recently, a new friend posted a picture of a book on his Facebook page. It was called, Helping The Retarded To Know God. It was posted to entertain his friends and to strike up a conversation with others. The comments were mostly geared towards how ridiculous the book is but there was laughter and it provided entertainment for others.
I left a comment. It was to the point. I told him that it hurt my feelings that this was used to make fun of those with intellectual disabilities. I also included a picture of Adele. I have to be honest, I was mad. I felt like I had been disrespected.
He sent me a message....
It was intended to mock the people who made that horrible book, but you certainly are right, this is not something you should joke about and I am very sorry for that. Sometimes you just forget and mock something while hurting others instead. It takes people like you standing up and saying what you did to really make people think, certainly did for me, quite profoundly. I felt horrible and ashamed after that, I would like to think I'm above being like that, sadly that was a tough lesson to learn. Again, please accept my apologies, it is so far from my nature to be hurtful and I will not make that mistake again. Thank you for calling me out on that!
I said something. That's all I needed to do. Did I take the chance of him coming back and berating me? Sure. I don't care. It is imperative that I speak up on behalf of my daughter and for all of those of varying abilities.
This is the thing, I am on a mission. I want to change the world. Sure, it's a big job, but all it takes is a small act every day. I need for my friends and my family to call others out. I need for you to stop using the word, stop making excuses as to why you use it. It doesn't make it any better. Some of you may think that I am over-reacting or a bit dramatic, but this is the thing, this is my life, this is my journey, Adele is my daughter. At some point in her life, she will be called a 'retard', and it will hurt her. It will hurt her family. I am going to work my hardest to pave a smooth road for Adele. I am going to be her strongest advocate, but I need your support.
Spread the Word to END the Word.