Friday, July 1, 2011

Taking a Chance, Taking a Stand

We live in a world where face-to-face interaction is becoming obsolete.  I am sort of laughing because here I am communicating electronically--see proof of decreased face-to-face time!

With the internet, email, texting, and the ever addictive facebook, it is so easy to loose the meaning of words and phrases.  To have tone and intentions not be clear.  It also means that words can be thrown carelessly about to people who you do not even know.  Words like "retard". Ooh I hate that word.

According to the medical field, the word retard means slowed.  Think flame retardant clothing, growth retardation, etc.  In that context, there is nothing offensive about it.  It is just a word.  A medical description.  However, as with many words, they become slang.  It reminds me of the 1990's when everything was so "gay".  Yes, that was/is offensive too so please remove from your vocabulary! Gay means happy.  It is also the name of my high school theology teacher.  Yes, it became slang and thus offensive.

I do not get my shirt all twisted when people say Downs syndrome instead of Down syndrome.  Or when they say Downs kids rather than kids with Down syndrome- people first language please! However, the word "retard" makes me seethe because it is used as a weapon.  An insult.

Back to the internet.  Actually Facebook to be exact.  I have a dear buddy that I grew up with.  He practically lived at out house jamming on the guitar with my baby brother in our basement.  We are still buddies and friends on FB.  He is of course in an awesome band and wants to get the FB page off the ground.  The easiest way to do that--message all of his friends on FB.

For those of you who are not familiar with this, when you reply to the message, it replies to everyone and not just the sender.  You actually have to hit the smaller "reply" button next to the person's name to just reply to said person.  Apparently, this upset and greatly annoyed many people for the following messages were showing up:

"J set up this conversation... it's not our fault ppl are to retarded to change their FB notification settings or leave the conversation... the purpose of this msg was to tell ppl about his band's page"

"Seriously retards. cuss word off! Cut the cuss word out."

As I am sure you can imagine, to sign onto my computer and see 50+ messages of people sounding angry over something completely minuscule was a bit alarming.  I planned on just deleting the whole group of them until I saw the R-word.  To see that many of the peeved people saying "retard" as a means to say these people are "stupid" or "idiots" or as one person actually typed "so easy a caveman could do it"  set my teeth grinding.

My daughter is only 21 months-old and cannot stand up for herself.  As her mama, I can.  I took a chance knowing that I was about to set off a whole group of, well, band groupies and hit "reply all" to the original message.  I was polite and tried to be tactful.  I held in my fuming, smoking anger.  I simply stated:

My daughter may be considered as some of you would say a "retard". She has Down syndrome and is very intelligent. Yes, she is a little slower at learning things such as speaking and walking, but she is a person. A good person. The word "retard" even said in jest is very offensive to those who have special needs and to their families who are trying so hard to raise them. Traci, I do not know you, but thank you for saying to all "it [retard] was a bit harsh". Please, think before you type and consider changing your choice of words. You can see my daughter in my profile picture-she is a beautiful, wonderful girl and J, along with his brother C are her "uncles". So you are offending them too.

I prepared my fragile, people-pleasing soul for an onslaught of ticked off people.  Did I get nasty replies?  Oh yes, I did.  However, I was shocked.  I shall repeat, shocked, by the number of apologies received and by the number of people tell me that they too were offended because they too have a child/brother/sister with special needs.  Some people simply cannot be reached and their ignorance will reign, but I never imagined those few sentences I wrote in the heat of the moment then caused this in response to a negative reply:

From T: "STOP with the use of the word Retarded.. You are offending the people..."

Another person taking a stand and speaking out.


NOTE: Just learned J's FB account was hacked.


  1. Love ya for your courage to speak for our children!! And for other reasons!

  2. Great job, I love it, you did a wonderful job! So encouraging to hear how most people reacted to your letter! Wish those that were offended could gather the courage to stand up for their loved ones!

  3. Go Girl!

    I love the message of the r-word campaign. We first saw it at a Special Olympics event. I get questions and comments when I wear my r-word shirt all the time. Great way to spread the message.

    For me, it really hit home when we did my son's IEP when he started school and the disability name changed to mentally retarded. How was my son developmentally delayed one day and the next mentally retarded. Ugh. I have done a lot of education at our twice yearly IEPs. LOL.

    Be gentle,

  4. Good job standing up for all our kids! It can be hard, but nothing will change if we don't say something.


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