Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Feeling Defensive

It feels like someone was calling me out on that last post. And truly, I have the utmost respect and appreciation for everyone who follows my humble little blog and leaves comments. And I don't want to alienate anyone, but I feel compelled to address this.

First of all, yes, it does appear that some kids use the term "retard" in the presence of their parents. Just read Joyce's post from yesterday. The parents were there. What were they doing about the situation? By not doing anything, they were condoning the behavior.

Yes, I admit that I used to use the term "retarded" casually from time to time. I am deeply ashamed of that. There is nothing I can say that would justify it - I should have known better. However, does that mean that I don't have the right to advocate against its use now? I've done a lot of things in my life that I regret; I don't think that should preclude me from taking a stand and speaking out against those very things now.

I agree that young kids use the term "retard" in ignorance. They don't understand the gravity of it, and how much hurt it can cause. Older kids, though? Yeah, they get it. Especially when they've specifically been made aware of the fact that it's hurtful. There are kids whom Kevin has talked to who, once he explains to them why it's hurtful, they go, "Oh, okay. I get it. I won't say it anymore." And there are kids like the one who taunts Kevin at school with the word "retard" who does get that it's hurtful - who even has been made aware of the fact that Kevin has a baby brother who has Ds - and still chooses to use it. That's a choice.

I still remember way back a number of months ago, I got into this very heated exchange on a message board about this group of women's use of the word "retard." There I was, telling them that as the mother of a child with special needs, the word is very offensive and hurtful to me and my family and a lot of other families, and a few of the women actually argued the point with me, insisting to me that it's NOT offensive. Let's see . . . I have a kid who is mentally retarded, I'm telling you that your epithets hurt and offend me, and you're telling me, "No, it's not offensive," WTF??? Some people, I guess just can't be gotten through to. And really, I guess over time I've come to the conclusion that people - including kids old enough to understand all this - who still choose to use hurtful terminology even after being made aware are really making a statement about themselves.

When Kevin and I were on CafePress the other day designing those t-shirts, I came across this one:

And seriously, I thought about getting it. Because really, I think that people who insist on using that terminology even in the face of knowing it's hurtful - they're the real retards. Not my kid, who happened to be born with an extra chromosome - and can't do a damn thing to change that - and who will probably go through his life showing a great deal more compassion and social and emotional intelligence than these asshats who just want to defend their right to free fucking speech.

Anyway, my whole point in sending that letter out to friends and acquaintances yesterday was to make the parents aware, because I assumed that they were NOT aware that their kids might be using hurtful and offensive language.
I will continue to try to change the world, one person at a time.


Lovin Mama said...

Love it!

Tausha said...

Oh my gosh, that T-shirt is awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!! My husband works for a printing company and I might just have him print a few. I am with you on all this. Before having Sam I used to use the word and so did my little sister. I knew I was going to say something to her but all of a sudden she stopped and so did her kids, I think once the reality of what they were saying became personal as they all love little Sam, they realized how hurtful it could be and they stopped. Sometimes it accidentaly slips and you can see the horror in their eyes and they quickly apologize. Thanks for taking a stand for our kids.

Carla said...

Lisa, I hope you didn't think I was calling you out. I'm just saying alot of people use the word retard (or asshat for that matter), and think nothing of it, because we are just not around any mentally retarded people. Yeah, the kid who antagonizes Kevin is intentionally being hurtful. But most of us, just don't think before saying it. I don't think you using the word in the past means you have no right to advocate against not using it now. Like I said, your perspective is different now, as is mine. I still catch myself saying "that's retarded, or I'm a retard." But now, I at least stop and think, you know that's hurtful and you need to stop saying it. In fact, I've mentioned it to other people, that I really don't want to say it anymore because of this wonderful Mama and her precious boy who made me realize that it's just not funny. It's mean.

I think it's great that you are pointing this issue out to the rest of us who just weren't aware how hurtful it can be.

I'm sorry if I made you feel defensive. I wasn't trying to hurt your feelings. I was just saying, we all won't know, until someone tells us.

Love the shirt though. Perhaps I will just stick to calling myself an asshat. What is an asshat anyway? :op

Carla said...

And I just clicked over to Joyce's blog. That kid should have been reined in long before it got to the name calling stage.

Sounds like he was acting like an asshat.

I think that's my word for the day. :op

Megan said...

I have to tell you, part of the reason why I don't feel as heated about the whole "R" word issue is, just as you said, the word itself has been so slandarized, I just don't feel that it applies to my kid. Retard, in the slang term, isn't Stella. I guess it's easier for me if I compartmentalize it that way.

Lisa said...

Carla, not sure what an asshat is exactly . . . my guess is something like an asshole. Not derogatory towards any particular class of people . . . except asshats ;)

Heather said...

LOL I'm totally with Carla on this one. I'm adopting asshat as my word of the day. Much easier to say than 'dumb as a sack of hammers' ;).

Khourt said...

Lisa, I think this:

"Not derogatory towards any particular class of people . . . except asshats ;)"

explains what a lot of people think about the word retard until they learn better. They think it is only offensive to those who are mentally retarded. They dont understand until others tell them better... but I think the same should go for all words.. I would never allow my son to call somebody retarded and I would never allow him to call somebody asshole, or dork, or goober or anything else... Those words might just be funny words to him or me or you but they could be very offensive to others.. I just personally dont feel it is ok to call people names, no matter what those names may be. (But oh yes I still use them in rants, so maybe Im hypocritical)

Carla said...

What about dummyhead, cuz that is a fave at my house?

Kristen said...

I love the shirt!
When my ex and I first started dating I called myself the "r-word". That is when he told me about his sister having down syndrome. I felt like shit, and lesson learned.