Saturday, September 29, 2012

Does this Offend You?

*This post was extremely hard for me to write because these words feel like poison in my mind. My point is not  to offend anyone, but to show how offensive and thoughtless words can be. NONE of these words are part of my vocabulary, and my wish is that they are not part of yours as well.

Kike- a derogatory word for a GermanSpic- a derogatory word for someone of Hispanic descent. Jap- a derogatory word for some who is JapaneseNigger- a derogatory word for someone of African American descent. Faggot- a derogatory word for someone who is homosexual. Cunt- a derogatory word for a woman. Chink-a derogatory word for someone who is Chinese. Gook- a derogatory word for someone of Asian descent. Guido- a derogatory word for an Italian-American male. Honky- a derogatory term for a white person. Oreo- a derogatory term for someone who is
black but is perceived to act like a white person ( we are so far from being unprejudiced if we are still even thinking this way!). Paddy- a derogatory term for someone who is of Irish descent. Polack- a derogatory term for someone from Poland. Ginger- a derogatory term for someone with red hair. Towel Head- a derogatory term for someone from the middle east. Wop- a derogatory term for an Italian. Frog- a derogatory term for a French Canadian. Abbie- derogatory term for a Jewish male. Beaner- a derogatory term for someone from Mexico. Brownie- a derogatory term for someone who has a mixed white and black ancestry. Breed- a derogatory term for a Native American. Flip- a derogatory term for Filipinos....

These words, along with many others likewise, cause great pain, offense and shame to those they mean to belittle. Everyone is aware of the power of these words and choose not to (or, heartlessly choose to) use them- directed at a person, object or situation, and aware of the damage they do.

Retard- a derogatory term for someone who is mentally challenged.

But this one, this one, is widely defended to be okay to use- greatly due to ignorance of the word and people being unaware of the power behind it. Whether or not you are talking about a black person, if you refer to something being like a Nigger, its still offensive. And everyone would still consider that a direct jab to the black community. But then refer to something being retarded and many people fight defensively that that in no way directly is offensive those that are mentally challenged, reasoning that it just a word for slow or stupid.

It causes the same pain, offense and shame to those that it belittles. Exactly the same power as all the above words. Negro was once just a word that meant black- try to get away with that reasoning and use it.

Retard, a word, used as a noun, that originally defined someone with a lower intellectual ability, evolved into a slang used to belittle, hurt and devalue those who are mentally challenged. In the noun form, it has always been linked to those who have a lower IQ.

When they were originally introduced, the terms “mental retardation” or “mentally retarded” were medical terms with a specifically clinical connotation; however, the pejorative forms, “retard” and “retarded” have been used widely in today’s society to degrade and insult people with intellectual disabilities. Additionally, when “retard” and “retarded” are used as synonyms for “dumb” or “stupid” by people without disabilities, it only reinforces painful stereotypes of people with intellectual disabilities being less valued members of humanity.- From Spread the Word to End the Word

There are people adamant about defending their right to use the word.  And much like most people who defend their right to use this word, they completely miss the point. Its not about abolishing a word... its about abolishing an attitude. Its about removing that word from a situation because of the harsh and painful things it implies. Its about respecting other human beings- which using the R word truly dehumanizes those with learning disabilities. I love what this gentleman had to say about that-

But for our part, we are trying to awaken the world to the need for a new civil rights movement -- of the heart. We seek to educate people that a crushing prejudice against people with intellectual disabilities is rampant -- a prejudice that assumes that people with significant learning challenges are stupid or hapless or somehow just not worth much. They're, um, "retarded." And that attitude is not funny or nuanced or satirical. It's horrific.-
Timothy Shriver

I was talking to a friend the other day about how much I was encouraged to abort Fiona. Every day I look at her and am brought to my knees in gratefulness that she is part of my life- that I am her mom and no doctor could talk me into her being any less worthy at a shot at this life then any other baby. I remember being told we had to act wisely in how to remove her as so not to damage my chances of having another good child. That conversation is burned into my mind along with all the pain of actually being told they didn't think my daughter was worth giving life to. Fiona, by definition, is mentally retarded (although most medical books are now starting to also get rid of that phrase because of the derogatory context it has evolved to have). No one who knows her considers her stupid. No one who loves her thinks her unworthy. She isn't. And neither are the numerous others I know with mental handicaps. But when someone is talking about how "that movie was so retarded" or "that boy is acting like a retard" or "omg, I am so retarded!", you are subconsciously lowering respect for those that actually are. You just said a movie was stupid like someone who is mentally challenged. THAT IS WHAT YOU SAID- NO MATTER WHAT YOU SAY YOU MEANT (which FYI, that is subconsciously what you meant). How can I not take direct offense to that? Its a knife in my stomach that I take everyday, from people I know, from people I care about, from people who care about Fiona, let alone the random stranger.

My original idea with this post was to keep it short. Get my point across simply so people would read the whole thing, because I know there are lot of people who don't like to read long posts. I hope you have hung in there till now. I am so sick of asking people, nicely, not to use it and for people getting defensive with their rights of speech. What it boils down to is do you respect other people? Because this offends some. So could you please at least think about that before you throw it around? That's all.

October is National Down syndrome Awareness month in the States. Some wonderful bloggers do a blog each day in October about Down syndrome, or just about their life with their child with Down syndrome, to highlight the truth and the blessings of this road in life. I do not have the time or energy for that this year, so if you want more information please look on my side bar to my list of fellow bloggers and I am sure you will find many amazing posts this month.

This topic is not new, I know. I have written about it many times before. With each one I hope one more person understands it. Because I still have friends who don't. Down syndrome is so not a big deal anymore in my world. Its a piece of our puzzle, but that's all. If you really want to make a difference though, if you want to better Fiona's future.... help by not causing her pain by belittling her worth with the R word. Its simple. Its a free gift. And it by far means the most to us.

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not. - Dr. Seuss


  1. This is so well written. Great post. I didn't even know half of the words you mentioned at the top of your post and yet, I am all to familiar with the r-word. Before my darling Ellie, I too used it--in both the medical sense and in the derogatory sense. I am ashamed. Our daughters many have intellectual disabilities, but they are not stupid. Keep writing, Shannon, because all it takes is one person to read this and learn. In turn, that person may continue on to tell another person and another.

    1. Anna, so did I. And some point that out and say I only care now because of Fiona. And partially they are right. But I am thankful to experience it first hand so that I am a more sensitive person now from it. I am constantly reminding people not to say "thats so gay", another loosely used term. It in no way relates to me, but love is shown through respect, and our words are our biggest source of disrespect. No need to be ashamed for doing something unintentially. But once you know, that's when you are called to action to change.

  2. Great post! I hadn't even heard of half of those terms. I guess that's good, right?


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