This article is up for an award in the 2020 Baps blogging award. If you think it deserves to win, please VOTE HERE – https://www.myfamilyourneeds.co.uk/baps/biggest-impact/
I’m not an easily offended person and I believe in gently educating people about Down syndrome. I always remind myself and others that we were all uneducated once, and that reacting angrily and aggressively changes nothing. But saying that, I would like to take a few minutes to discuss the word “retard” with you.
Firstly, as a grown adult you are more than capable of deciding whether you want to use the word or not. It is your choice if you want to use it as an insult. However, it is my choice to call you out on it and tell you politely why it’s hurtful to people. And I will. Every time. But again, it’s your choice whether you choose to listen.
Then I get another decision to make. Will I continue associating with a person who clearly has no respect or care for a minority group of people who are the butt of your insults? No I won’t, because if our feelings mean so little to you then you are not a friend of our family and you certainly don’t deserve to be near my son. I will distance myself from you 100% without hesitation, whether you are an acquaintance, an old friend or even family. I won’t think twice and I will not excuse or ignore your behaviour. My son deserves more.
You see, retard is a word that describes people with a learning disability and every time you use it you are insulting them. It is hate speech. When you call any person a retard, you are essentially telling them that they are acting disabled. You are using people with Down syndrome an insult. You are using my son and the fact that you think I should be ok with that is mind blowing to me.
You may justify it to yourself by saying you’d never say it to an actual disabled person. I mean, you’re not THAT awful are you?! Or are you? Because if you continue to use that word after being told how hurtful it is and closing your ears to those you are hurting, then you are actually a bit of a shit. People make mistakes of course, but decent people listen and learn from them. They don’t justify their actions or try and convince me to ‘agree to disagree’, because that will never happen. You are wrong. Simple.
I wonder where you stand on the N word? I mean, by your logic as long as I don’t call a person of colour the N word then it’s fair game right? So calling my black husband a n**ger is not acceptable, but calling my white friend it is totally fine because you know, he ain’t black.
See how ridiculous that sounds? And it’s exactly the same scenario as your defence of the word retard. As long as you don’t say it to a disabled person it’s fine right? No. No its not. Don’t use the N word, don’t use the R word. Simple.
And again, what about people who are gay? By your logic calling a gay man “a queer” is awful, but using it as an insult to a straight man is perfectly acceptable.
Are you getting it yet? Are you starting to understand?
Of course it’s not ok to call somebody a retard. Anybody. Using words that degrade a whole minority group of people is not ok. Yet it seems we are expected to just accept it and ignore people who use it. We are told we are sensitive or looking at it too deeply. We are told we are over reacting.
So why is it that society accepts that racial and sexuality insults are not ok? Why is it that people accept that certain hate speech against colour or sexuality is wrong? Why is that?
Well I’ll tell you….
It’s because unless you are affected by disability yourself nobody really gives a crap. That’s pretty damn obvious isn’t it? Where are the people jumping to the defence of people with Down syndrome? Where is the outrage for people with learning disabilities who are hurt by the use of this word. Where is their support? Why do their feelings and rights mean nothing?
So I’ve said what I needed to say and now there’s a choice to be made. Will you do the right thing and stop using that word, or will you refuse to listen? Is having the R word in your vocabulary more important than actual people’s feelings? How is it not enough just hearing that your words are hurting people to make you stop?
Know this. The words you choose say a lot about who you are as a person, and so does your ability to admit you’ve been wrong.
Listen more. Do better. Be better.