Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Spread the Word to End the Word

What word you may wonder. That lovely R-word people like to use. Retard/Retarded, we have all heard it used and maybe even have used it ourself.
Spread the Word has made itself a mission to raise awareness about the hurtfulness in using this word and is collecting pledges from people who promise to stop using it. So far they have collected 173 119 online pledges.
Ellen at Love that Max, one of my favorite special needs bloggers, posted about a little experiment on Twitter that she tried. She signed up to be notified anytime someone sends a Tweet containing the word "retard". What she found was disturbing. Over the course of a day she received close to 1500 notifications. That is a lot of  inapropriate language. To each person, she replied courteously, telling them that the word "retarded" is deragatory to people with disabilities and asking them to reconsider using that word. You should definitelty go read her post, but most of the time she was ignored or told to mind her own business, or that it's not important because it is "just a word". She does write of some people who took her seriously and told her her perspective makes a difference.
It made me think about how I think of this word. It is not one I have in my vocabulary, nor one we use in our home except for my son's IEP which actually has the classification MR on it- mentally retarded. But that is actually the correct use of the word. My son, who is amazing and cute and wonderful is mentally retarded. You can call him developmentally delayed but that is not going to change the reality.
However, losing your wallet does not make you retarded, the cashier at the supermarket is not retarded either, or your teachers/ bus drivers or other people who may annoy you. It is demeaning to people with disabilities for this clinical term to be used inapropriately. To quote Rabbi Liebling in the fabulous documentary "Praying With Lior". When he speaks about his son with Down Syndrome he says: "He's retarded, not stupid. It's not the same thing!"
But do I feel the need to go on a crusade, to correct people and make them feel uncomfortable? I am  not sure. There have been times people have used the term around me and I did not say anything or make a fuss. Other times I did speak up or at least wished I had said something. I guess it all depends on the situation and who the person is.
But since this is my blog and I can say what I want, I am asking you my dear readers to consider if you have ever used that word and to try and remove it from your vocabulary. Spread the Word to End the person at a time.
What do you think?
As an aside- I will be away for the weekend so I will not be posting till Sunday night or Monday. Wishing you a wonderful shabbos.

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