A few months ago, while running some errands, I ran into an acquaintance who was in the midst of telling her kids to stop acting like retards as they were playing around and being silly in the store. To me they were just kids being kids.
Typically, I wouldn’t intervene on others parenting techniques. After all nobody is perfect, and parenting is something that is learned over time with each new twist and turn in the road. However, this time was different – she used a word that to me is very offensive and loaded with discrimination. I had to say something. To me the r-word is a personal attack. An attack on my daughter, my husband, myself, and my family. I felt so protective of my daughter at that moment and the mama bear persona once again shone through.
Without trying to be too judgemental I politely asked her not to use the r-word, both in front of her children and in general. It reminded me of the poem by Dorothy Law Nolte - Children Learn What They Live. More specifically one excerpt; “If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.” If these kids grow up hearing the adults around them using these words in the way of an insult whether it be in a joking manor or not, chances are they will grow up using them as well.
She became pretty defensive and replied that her husband’s family is french and she is just used to hearing it, and that she was only joking around with them. Now it’s been quite a while since I took a french class – high school to be exact, but I don’t ever remember the r-word being used to degrade or insult someone. I even asked a good friend who happens to speak fluent french every day. Her reply: “I can honestly say that the French generally use ‘retarder’ in the true sense of the word – to hold back… I don’t know of a slang version that is applied in the negative way it is used in English.” So why did this grown, educated women feel it was ok to use it in the store?
When I returned home I decided to look a little further into the usage of the r-word and came across the site The R-Word – Spread the Word to End the Word.
Spread the Word to End the Word™ is an ongoing effort by Special Olympics, Best Buddies International and their supporters to raise the consciousness of society about the dehumanizing and hurtful effects of the word “retard(ed)” and encourage people to pledge to stop using the R-word. In 2004, in response to Special Olympics athletes’ call for change, the Special Olympics International Board of Directors adopted a resolution to update the movement’s terminology from “mental retardation” to “intellectual disabilities.”
After taking the pledge to eliminate the demeaning use of the r-word, I came across this video of an adorable little girl sharing why her little brother is so special and why she wants people to stop using the r-word.
Just this past week, a public service announcement titled “Not Acceptable” with Lauren Potter and Jane Lynch from the hit tv show Glee aired during the show the total online pledges grew to well over 200,000.
I took the pledge – will you?