Years ago, when I was working in Chicago, the term mentally retarded was still used to diagnose our students – sure, it was shortened to MR, but it was still there, hanging over everyone like a controversial cloud. I hated it, and still do. It’s not a diagnosis, it’s a social stigma.
Now, people say that’s so retarded instead of that’s dumb or weird or whatever. But why do people think that’s OK still? I recently had a group where one of the youth used the r word and just now, my mechanic, a lovely and approachable man, just referred to something as retarded. About TIRES. TIRES.
I mean, there’s no way you would know my daughter has special needs, or really, that I even have kids when they’re not around, no way of knowing how that word is like a knife in the heart. But, so what? Why is it OK to say as long as you don’t know how personal it is?
And my youth? Didn’t even know what the word meant, what it referred to. How have we accepted this as a normal thing we say and people don’t even know its history, its hurtful nature almost beyond repair for those who have endured years of its taunts.
I cannot even begin to imagine someone calling my daughter that; a girl who is so incredibly smart and strong and lovable and kind. Will it release the inner Mama bear in me? Will I be able to have an open and honest conversation about it?
For now, I want people to know that using the r word is just so fucking dumb.