It matters

The use of the R-word is back in the limelight again.

By now I’m sure everyone has heard about Rahm Emanuel’s use/misuse of the word, followed by Sarah Palin’s rebuke, followed by a sit down with Disability Leader’s to discuss the damage this word causes.

Followed by Rush Limbaugh’s response, who called the meeting between Emanuel and Disability Leaders a "Retard Summit," followed by a letter from Tim Shriver, Chairman of the Special Olympics, appealing to Rush in much the same way he and other’s did to Emanuel.

Too much?

An over reaction?

Political Correctness gone mad?


Maybe not.

In many respects the r-word has gone the way of “moron” and “imbecile” and “idiot,” words that once medically described the cognitively impaired. These words were adopted by popular culture to describe something or someone dumb.

The r-word is definitely used by many in this way. “Oh, I can’t believe I did that. I’m so R,” “You look like a R wearing that!” And so on.

I think much of the time those that use it so cavalierly are not intending to make fun of someone with cognitive delays when it rolls off their tongue.

Or, at least, that’s what I’m told.

But isn’t that what using the word implies?

The word exists because it has been a diagnosis for people like my son for years.

It is associated with people like my son.

When it is thrown out as an insult or used in a pejorative way it’s done so because, in our minds, we associate it with people who have low IQ's.

It is one of the first things we were told after Bean's diagnosis. "Your son will have moderate to severe retardation."

That word.


It's a punch in the gut.

The first time I felt it was sitting in the family room in NICU listening to the doctor describe our precious boy.

The last time I heard it was yesterday as two middle school boys were walking by our house and one called the other a "retard" while acting out the meaning and laughing heartily.

Another punch in the gut as I realized that one day soon Bean will come to understand that he is the subject of the joke.

Still don't get it? Read this.


Lark said...

Love your post, hate that you even have to write it. Was thinking of you today when I read about John Mayer's apology for using the "n-word"
I don't think it's a hopeless cause as that other blog suggested. Hopefully with patience and education it will become less and less common.
Thanks for your comments, it makes me feel more confident when I correct a friend who says it in a self-depricating way.

Beth said...

Just perfect, Stacy.

Design Wanna-be said...

Preach it, sister.

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