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What are we teaching our children?

Written By: teamcharliebear - Sep• 03•15

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A couple days ago I reposted a story on Facebook about Ann Coulter and her use of the word “Retarded” in a not so recent rant. It was a response penned by John Franklin Stephens, the Global Messenger for the Special Olympics in Virginia. You can find that here if you need the reference to it.  In my reposting of the article I added a caption “Pardon my language, but F… what context you use it in, it’s not ok. Just stop it!”  Only, I didn’t edit any of my language. I did that intentionally to see if anyone pointed out my language as offensive.  I thought it would be a good test to see if it raised more eyebrows than the article.  For the most part it went unnoticed.  Then I received a message from someone who was disappointed at my choice in language. Which was fine, I was happy to edit the post, but it made me think.  Why does it seem like society, as a whole, will jump to correct foul language much quicker than they will correct someone for using derogatory terms against an entire group of individuals?  I’ve seen Facebook blown up over race issues and sexual orientations lately, but people seem less apt to correct someone for using the word retarded simply because “they didn’t mean it that way”.  Which made me think even further, what makes that word more acceptable?  Is it the fact that people with developmental delays often don’t have the ability to say anything to you about how it hurts them?  Is it because you think they’re too stupid to even know you are making fun of people like them?  When you make weird noises and hit yourselves to make fun of a friend who is not handicapped, do you assume it’s ok because you “checked the room first” and you didn’t think you saw anyone who would be offended?  It’s not ok and it never will be.  Let me tell you why…

Some disabilities are not visible.  Check your surroundings all you want, but you never know if you are near someone with a disability so can you really be sure?  Not only that, but what if your friend has a sibling with a delay?  What if you’re talking to someone’s mother. It doesn’t matter what context you use the word in, it’s painful to those that live with it daily.   I take offense to racial slurs as well as the other F word against same sex couples, but there is one difference that makes this particular word even worse in my opinion.  Every other group can stand up for themselves or at the very least respond to your hatred.  Even though I think Mr. Stephens did a very eloquent job in his response to Ann Coulter, he said himself it took all day to get that response out. What about those that will never be able to communicate the pain it causes them to see people seemingly making light of their situations?  What about the sisters and brothers or Mothers you are hurting.  You can argue with me all day long that words shouldn’t hurt people unless the intent is bad.  I wonder though, have you ever really thought about it’s intent?  I can be honest and say that I didn’t when I was a kid. I used those words, and I made the gestures thinking it was ok because I was just  trying to be funny, but guess what? It’s not funny at all.  This is my life! Don’t you get it?

Imagine yourself as me, who is always home with the kids. Seriously, ALWAYS  because that’s where my son with severe autism is the most comfortable. I do everything for him. I also get a front row seat to all his meltdowns and tantrums over not being able to communicate what he wants or needs.  I have weeks at a time that I clean fecal matter off of everything all day, everyday because he’s going through a transition period. Transitions to him mean the not so great behaviors come out. It’s either a smear campaign against it, or he revolts by not keeping his socks and shoes on at appropriate times.  He’s also going into puberty, but he still needs help with showers and potty trips. Which I’m sure isn’t fun for either one of us, but we do what we have to every long day. All the while, we’re still clinging to hope that the next day will go just  a little better than the one before.  Now imagine that you get MAYBE two hours out of the entire month to go shopping alone. Yes, gloriously alone without kids or anything! Sometimes I can’t even bring myself to turn on the radio because I just want to sing along to the sound of NOTHING for a minute.  You’d be feeling pretty invincible by the time you hit the mall or whatever, wouldn’t you?  So there you are, walking on sunshine down a hallway and you see some healthy kids, you know the kind, the neurotypicals.  As they pass you, one of them starts hitting themselves and moaning and tells his friend “jokingly” that he’s so retarded.  Maybe it shouldn’t bother you because the context it was used, but what exactly is the meaning behind it? Do they think that sort of behavior is funny?  I don’t.  I’ve been sitting across the room from my son,  and watched him self stimulate with a tail on a toy for an hour only to end up bursting into tears because sometimes it simply hurts to look at him. To see him so trapped inside his own mind. Other times I’ve had to physically restrain him for up to an hour at a time to keep him from hurting himself or one of us!  I don’t remember finding the humor in that situation either.  Believe me when I tell you I am a master at finding the humor in bad situations, but sometimes even I can’t find it.  I now know what I was trying to convey as funny is a very real, and often sad situation for a lot of people.  It touches everyone that is connected to a person with a handicap or delay, and I was a jerk for ever thinking differently.

I’m sure most parents teach their kids not to pick on anyone. I’m just curious if you tell them why? Do you use real examples of real situations? Use mine if you need to, but get the point across please!  I know I understand the reasons not to ever say that word a lot better now than I did. Hopefully you can too.  Also, to clarify, the person that sent the message to me corrects people for both kinds of language and is a good hearted person who I honestly respect.  He just happened to be the first one to point out my language and that made me wonder if people would be so quick to take someone to task over the other.  I know I have faltered in the past with friends who used the word and I didn’t correct for fear of offending them.  You know what though? Fuck that! From this day forward I will stand up for those who need our voices just as quickly as I would any other hate speech, without hesitation! I hope you will join me.

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