Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Retards. A Letter Template

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 thechroniclesofelliebelliebear@yahoo.com or you may visit this National Down Syndrome Association at http://www.ndss.org


Sincerely,


Anna C Theurer


http://ellietheurer.blogspot.com
http://www.facebook.com/stopdisabilityslurs


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!

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6 comments:

  1. For those of you who wonder why I use "Retards" in the post title, I do so because I hope that people searching for phrases with the r-word in it come across this post and learn from it.

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  2. Oh no, just as you were settling down for a good read too! I have snazzy lines in my head for work people - that I've never had the chance to use - but instead just heard it from the last person in the world I'd expect it, during Girls Night this weekend. Put a damper on the evening.

    In theory I get that if it weren't used in the mass media, it'd be less acceptable @ home but... those friends & family incidents sting SO MUCH WORSE.

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  3. krlr, I know exactly what you mean. For friends and family to use the word. . . ugh! It definitely ruins the evening and you expect more from friends and family. I will tell you that I have gotten into arguments with friends who have flung the r-word around in front of me. Oh yes, I do call them out on it, nicely of course. I just tell them that I find the word offensive and to please use a different word. That the word is a slur toward my Ellie. Has it affected some friendships, yes, but I have to stick up for my daughter. She is 2yo and cannot stand up for herself yet.

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  4. I myself use that word frivrolously. Not because I am saying I am poking fun at those who are mentally retarded in the medical sense. I see those people as beautiful and talented in their own way. I use it for people who should no better but act worse than someone who is ..... and crap, now that I write this down I sound like a complete idiot.

    I want to thank you for posting your letter. I do have dreams of becoming a writer and I will make sure this word never enters into my writings vocabulary. I know what I have said in the past, and how I explained it. Maybe people should write it down and see how stupid they truly sound like I just did. I'm down right embarrassed. I need to censor my own mouth, because I would never use the N word and have slowly eliminated the word gay. Just because that is socially unexceptable. Even though I see that one as dumb. Gay used to mean happy and fag was a cigarette. Those ones were turned negative by stupid people. The N word and the R word were always negative. Sorry for my rant. bottom line, you made me think. Thanks.

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  5. Thank you L.A.C.E. for your comment. In my middle school years, I thought nothing of tossing about the r-word as a means to call someone stupid. It wasn't until later that I realized just how offensive the r-word and stripped it from my vocabulary. I like how you brought up the word gay meaning happy and fag as a cigarette. It is people twisting around the true, dictionary meaning of words and making them offensive and derogatory.

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  6. I'm glad you used it in the title. I hope that it gets a LOT of hits by people who did not want the education, but probably NEED it! Most of my family and friends have removed the word from their vocabulary, there will be an occasional slip and stop themselves and look quite embarrassed. The biggest culprit is my brother-in-law (who has a brother with DS).

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