Blogging about life in Minnesota, raising our six kids with Down syndrome while battling Breast Cancer.

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the floor in the morning the devil says, "Oh shit! She's up!"

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Spread the Word to End the Word(S)

Most of use who have kids who have cognitive impairments are familiar with the "Spread the word to End the Word" campaign. If you're new to this blog, you let me quickly insert a short-but-sweet old post of mine here:
Most who know me also know that if they use the "R word" around me, or any derivative of it, I'll probably say something about it. I may, or may not, be nice about it, depending upon my mood at that particular moment. Some people I know, even family members, think it's silly for me to be irritated about it. "It's just a word...a figure of speech, I don't mean anything by it." I even had one family member call her own son that, while Angela and I stood right there. Still...they think I'm overreacting.

No..I'm not. When you use that word, you're using my child as an insult. You're saying to be like her is a bad thing. That whomever you're calling a "r-d" surely would never want to be like Angela, or any other person who carries a MEDICAL DIAGNOSIS of mental retardation. That, my friends, is some incredibly insensitive thinking.

You wouldn't call people a "n-word", or a "fa**ot", or any other socially unacceptable slang term because you know they're wrong. They are words that can get you fired from a job, or sued for racial verbal harassment. Yet the "r-word" lives on. It's sickening.

Imagine my child walking through school. She will never hear one of her classmates call their friend of color a "ni**er, and in her extremely racially diverse school she'll never hear someone call a friend from the middle east a "towel head", but it is EXTREMELY common for her to hear someone walk by and refer to each other as "re*ard".

Why is this ok? Why is it ok for you to model it for your children and why is ok for your kids to do it at school? Why is it ok to have what my daughter is labeled by medical professionals be the butt of a joke every day of her life.

You may say, "Oh get over it. Grow a thicker skin." But if you're one of the people who use that word, what will you do the first time you hold your own new baby with Down Syndrome? Or your new grandchild, niece or nephew? Or you meet your boyfriends brother with Down Syndrome. Will you still use it anyway, regardless of how hurtful it is? Will you tell your own child "Grow a thicker skin child! You're going to be hearing this your whole life!!!!"

My child doesn't need to grow a thicker skin. She's been through more in her short 14 years than most adults will go through in a lifetime. What she needs is for people to be as respectful of her as they are of those of color or different religions. After all, the only difference between her and you is one tiny chromosome.


Which brings me to the purpose of my reposts. In my previous post titled "Faces" I posted a bunch of silly pictures of Angela, and what a "goof" she is, only in the ORIGINAL wording I had said, "What a "twit" she is. Then my good friend Tamara made a comment about it. TWICE (on my Facebook and a blog comment.) Since it was my good friend Tamara, AND she commented TWICE about it, I thought...hmmm....I should check this out. Now HERE, the word "twit" has always been used as "silly" or "goofy", but given Tamara's response, I looked it up. I guess the British definition, according to says:

informal chiefly (Brit) a foolish or stupid person; idiot



an insignificant or bothersome person.

Miriam Webster has listed:
2 : a silly annoying person
I think up here "in the north country" I have only ever heard it used in the Miriam Webster sort of way. As a silly person. But now that it's in my head in the British, or "Across the Pond" definition, it will forever bother me! So, another word gone from my vocabulary. 

So, if that's so easy for me, why is it so difficult for others who find out their word usage is offensive? I have a very good friend who, several times in our last few conversations has used the R word. It grates on my nerves every time and she knows it. It slips from her mouth far too easily for it to be a rare occurrence. That means her kids hear it modeled all the time too. It makes me not want to talk to her anymore. People get defensive and say I shouldn't be so sensitive about it. Wait a minute...I bet this person, I KNOW this person can walk into church and not swear for the couple hour she's there! She can monitor her language that well, so why can't she filter when she talks to me, or is around me? My child, my family, just isn't that important, which speaks volumes about our relationship. 


Tamara said...

Amen, sister! :-)

Johnny and Emily said...

I hope its okay i have been reading your blog for a while. I love your post and am hoping it will be okay to reference this post on my blog as to share it with my family and friends. I am not an eloquent person and I have hard time expressing myself, but your post said everything I want to say. thank you.