I actually shutter a bit when I hear it. Of course no one is meaning it towards my niece, and of course once I explain to my friends that it bugs me they cautiously watch their tongues. I have friends who have wiped it from their vocabulary, and I appreciate that. But for those who don’t I try to have a little understanding.
Please don’t jump down my throat for saying that. I know the word is ignorant. I know it’s wrong that they’re using it regardless in the way “they meant it”, but how many of us used the R word before a loved one was diagnosed with a disability? I’m guilty. I know many of us are guilty. It’s not so funny anymore, and hell I bet a lot of us look back and feel ashamed that we used it that often. As much as I want to yell at someone for telling me “That’s retarded” I take a deep breath and remember society has taught people this is a synonym for stupid.
And of course, I don’t feel that way. I don’t think we should use that word to describe anything or anyone. I used to get infuriated when people said it right after my niece was diagnosed with down syndrome. “How can you use that word?!”, but what a hypocrite I was being because weeks before it was part of my regular vocabulary too. This is why I try to have understanding when I hear it. I take a few breathes, and I try to let it slide the first time. The second time I tell people it’s ignorant to use the word. The third time I give them reasons why I hate hearing it. People honestly sometimes have no idea that the word effects people as much as it does.
The only way we’ll erase the word is if we start informing people and persuading them that it’s offensive. Getting angry at them, telling them they’re a “fucking idiot” is ineffective …yes from experience. Instead the best thing we can do is share stories of how it hurts us to hear it so people understand that there is a reason behind why it’s a hurtful word. We need to explain to people in ways that they feel connected to what we are saying. Otherwise we may as well be speaking to a brick wall because people aren’t going to hear it. I know its upsetting that we have to persuade people to not use a hurtful word but how else can it be done effectively? Isn’t it worth it to have someone stop using it all the time instead of just around you?
I’m always going to advocate against the word in hopes that it makes up for the 19 years of life I thought it was okay to say it. I’m going to regret that I used the word to describe someone being an idiot, or that I thought it was funny. It’s none of these things and I apologize to everyone that I may offended over the years using it. To new moms, to veteran mothers, and to aunts and uncles just like myself to children with special needs. If you’re reading this as someone who uses the word just stop using it okay? Call it as you see it- don’t come up with another word that’s been implanted in your brain.