I cannot even tell you how many times I have settled down to enjoy a good book, be sucked into the story line, be captivated by the carefully crafted characters only to be slapped in the face by the use of the word retard or retards or retarded.
The word r*tard is brandied about so easily and without a care and frankly, I am quite sick of it. Many people have said to not get my shirt off about it and to grow a thicker skin and yet I wonder, what if it was the n-word or fag? Would my reaction then be warranted? Why can we not start treating the r-word the same way? Why must we, as a society, roll over and let media outlets (remember GQ Magazine, Democrat Braun, The Change Up, and The Descendants, just to name a few) make flinging around the r-word acceptable and commonplace? Why can we not fight? Because, united together, taking a stand, I believe that eventually, sometime in the hopefully near future, the r-word will be viewed as both offensive and discriminatory.
After having crafted too many letters to count with regards to the derogatory use of the r-word, I have decided to stick to a template that can be used for authors, actors, movie directors, etc. The underlined areas are those that need to be specific to the person you are writing to. I feel it is especially important to not stoop to their level but rather to speak respectfully and perhaps most importantly, to put a face to the person they are degrading, in this case, my daughter Ellie.
Dear P. C. Cast and Kristin Cast,
Retards. That is the word in your book Marked on page 16 that completely jumped off the page for me. That is the word that made me want to stop reading your book and any sequels even though I was already captivated by your characters and completely drawn into the story.
"Dustin and Drew were retards--totally immature beer-brains."
You know more than anyone that words have power. Unfortunately, the word retard has more power than you believe. Like the words n*gger and f*g, any version of the word r*tard is very offensive and derogatory.
You see, I have a beautiful, inspiring daughter who has an intellectual disability or in the medical sense of the word, is mentally retarded. My little girl has Down syndrome. Ellie is charming, engaging, and full of mischief. She is a complete joy to be around (unless she is in the middle of a terrible two tantrum). However, I know that at some point, someone will call her r*tarded. Someone will call her r*tarded as a means to hurl an insult at her. As a means to belittle her and hurt her. When she hears this, she will understand the full meaning and grasp that she is being made-fun of, insulted. Yes, Ellie is indeed slower at learning new tasks, but she is not stupid. She is not an idiot. Stupid. Idiot. Perhaps those are two words that could have been substituted for r*tards in your book.
I am hopeful that as you wrote "Dustin and Drew were retards--totally immature beer-brains." in Marked on page 16 you were most likely not singling out those with intellectual disabilities and yet, that word cut me to the core. Again, words have power. They have the power to inspire. They have the power to hurt. Our future generations learn from social media which as you know includes books. They are learning that it is okay to brandy about the word r*tard as a means to insult someone. I cannot be the first and only person to have felt this way and I am asking you to please, remove the r-word from your vocabulary. Treat it the same way as your would the n-word. Think about my sweet daughter and others like her who have caused your no harm. Use your wonderful ability as an author to make a difference and set a good example.
If you would like more information on intellectually disabilities or on Down syndrome, please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or you may visit this National Down Syndrome Association at http://www.ndss.org
Anna C Theurer
My one letter may or may not make a difference, but imagine if all of you spoke out. Imagine these authors, writers, producers having to face the whole force of us. Many words that used to be thrown around are no longer acceptable in the media or society. It had to start somewhere. Now it is our turn.
Since writing this post, I have had some people bring up an excellent point about media censorship (thanks for the feedback!). I would just like to clarify that I am not asking the authors to remove the r-word from their book. I am respectfully asking that they become more aware of just what the r-word means and to recognize that it is truly offensive. I am suggesting that they choose more appropriate, less derogatory words that do not poke fun at a particular group of people-a group of people that may not be able to stand up for themselves. I truly appreciate all of the feedback and your views. Thank you!