Now that Down Syndrome Awareness month is coming to an end, there are two things I want EVERYONE who knows Piper (or someone else with disabilities) to know. They both break my heart a little (okay, a lot) and I don’t like to talk about it. But, because this is what the month is all about, here I am.
The first task I have for you is about the word “retarded.” And because I can’t say it better myself, I’ll take it from the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign…
“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.”
The fact of the matter is that we, as a society, have ended the use of other derogatory terms that were used in negative ways against groups of people. But somehow, somehow, “retarded” remains as one of the last “acceptable” adjectives in our vocabulary. I’m sure you’ve seen just how easily it rolls of the tongue of someone else. Frankly, it’s hate speech.
We protect people against racial slurs. It’s not acceptable to refer to others in jest based on their socio-economic standing. Lawsuits have been filed because of negative jokes referring to a woman.
But, apparently, when it comes to cognitive abilities, it’s still fair game.
And it sucks.
Not only does it propagate negative stereotypes about people with disabilities, but it takes away a piece of their person.
So, please don’t use the word. Governments, school districts, and private organizations have all pledged to not use the word (even in appropriate ways); we shouldn’t ever hear it, particularly in the “lame, stupid, annoying” sense.
Because when you say it in a negative manner, you’re referring to her:
…and she’s anything but lame, stupid, or annoying.