Today is National Spread the Word to End the Word day. A campaign that Special Olympics started to try to end the misuse of the word, "retarded".
Let me start off by saying that I am guilty of using this word in a derogatory manner in the past. Very guilty. Am I proud of that? Certainly not, however, I tell you this so you know that when I ask you to please stop using the "R-Word", you can rest assured it is not coming from a place of judgement but of awareness of how much it can hurt to hear it be thrown about in casual conversations.
I am here to tell you it hurts. A lot. And I got the lesson taught to me the hard way. By giving birth to a gorgeous baby girl who would grow up to see the words "Mentally Retarded" written into ALL of her medical records.
There really is no way to explain what hearing someone who says that word makes me feel. But suffice it to say, it is a pain that shoots straight to the heart and lodges there. Because when you, I, or anyone uses that word as an adjective in any way, it is a direct insult to Tess.
Most often the defense used by people who say it is to not be so sensitive because you aren't saying it specifically to, or about, anyone with an intellectual disability so why should I be offended? And I know that no, of course you're not talking specifically about any one person when you use that word.
Except you are.
You're talking about my daughter. My baby who has fought more battles in her short life than you will, hopefully, ever have to fight in yours. You're talking about Tess. And in the cruelest possible way because she cannot speak up to defend herself against your attack.
This isn't about people being too sensitive. This isn't a freedom of speech issue. This is about common decency mixed with, oftentimes, ignorance of how cruel that word really is to so many of us who have loved ones with intellectual disability.
The reality is, Tess just lives her life giving out unconditional love and acceptance and asking nothing more than that in return other than you to respect that she deserves better than to see her disability used as the butt of your joke or rude comment. Seems like a pretty fair deal to me.
So I am asking you, the next time you or a friend do something stupid or silly and are "just joking" when you say something along the lines of, "You're so retarded" or "Stop being such a retard" or anything similar to that, I want you to ask yourself, would you say, "You're so Tess." or, "Stop being such a Tess." to describe whatever it is you're talking about?
Because ultimately, it's the same thing and she deserves better than that. Everyone does.