We’ve talked about this before. Today is a day to spread awareness about the need to rid your vocabulary of the R-word. You can click on the picture above to sign a pledge to stop using that word.
Last year I wrote this:
“But sadly, in our world, in this day, those everyday situations (calling someone a ret@rd) can befall horrible outcomes. Not everyone respects people’s dignity of risk or frankly- human life. Some people spend their time making others who have worked so hard to be a part of the community, to be accepted, to at least be allowed to live in peace, live a nightmare- at best. As a mother I hear about these stories and I want to take both of my children in my arms and never let anyone talk to them without first going through a battery of testing of my own. The fear eats at me. The worry of what I can do to prevent any harm befalling anyone tugs at my soul. Why anyone would insist that their right to call someone a ret@rd is more of a priority than the person on the receiving end’s dignity is beyond me. Just because we have the right to say what we want doesn’t mean we have to. I will never understand people defending their right to be mean. It’s one thing for someone to make a mistake, realize it, apologize and learn from it. We’re all human. It’s a diagnosable personality disorder to defend the right to hurt others.
The critics and trolls insist that as parents and advocates asking you to please remove this slang from your vocabulary is petty, politically correct and an overstatement of the issue at hand. I would say the extinction of Ernie Hernandez Jr’s life is a sad statement to the seriousness of the issue.
Our world is changing though. It’s this fact that restores my faith. The world understands now that people who clinically have the diagnosis of mental retardation can learn. They may learn differently, but they do learn. The term retardation when used appropriately isn’t the issue. The issue is that a wide sect of people use it to degrade others and then defend their right to be ignorant about it. The issue is so significant that even the medical community has decided to step in and revise their language. The correct term in the DSM-V will be Intellectual Disability.
We can all learn, if we are willing. As a friend, a community member, as a co-worker, as a family member, as a fellow human being I am telling you it gives me pause when you say ret@rd in reference to something you did that you think was stupid. I know you may not have thought about it before. I know you may not have had any reason to question it. Everyone says it right?
Well give me a few minutes of your time and open your hearts and mind and take the opportunity to learn about the history of people diagnosed with mental retardation. Read this. Know the struggles that have been faced and won, and those that still exist. If you still disagree about the significance of the R word, that’s fine. Just don’t use it around me or my family. That’s at least a start.”
This year, I still feel the same. I still champion the cause of equal rights and respect for all people. This year though…I know better. Courtney’s words, are often funny, silly, heart-wrenching and frankly one of the high-lights of my day. Her words last year on March 1, 2010, well somehow I missed them then. But I hear them now. I feel them in my heart. They empower me, to empower my little birds.
I’m not a confrontational person. I know I can’t change how someone else behaves. I can only choose how I respond and in doing so set an example for the two little sponges who watch me like a hawk to see how they should behave in this world of ours. It starts there. It starts in your heart. It starts at home. It starts in your community.
It’s awareness. Once you have it- you can’t go back. Once you know my child, she becomes the example you have for a particular image or term. She gives you a reason to want to change your mind and know more. She breaks your stereotype. She gives you pause. She causes you to think. Once you know her, truly know her, you won’t make a second mistake of underestimating her and writing her off. Because she’s watching. She’s listening. She’s learning. Just.Like.You.Do.
Respect her and she’ll respect you. Spread the word to end the word. Just don’t say it. It’s that simple.
I know better. And so does the Quail. And so does everyone who knows and loves her.