Today is "Spread the Word to End the Word" day. In honor of that I'm going to post my annual post about hate speech.
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...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 "nigger, 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 "retard".
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 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 11 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.