One of the rituals I have acquired over the course of #AutismStreaks is to post a post-run picture on social media, usually stating the distance, time, average heart rate and pace, along with an occasional random thought or event that happened during the run. It’s been my way of “proving” to the world that I am in fact running these runs. One of the places I have been posting these pictures is on Instagram, where I have a small but supportive and friendly following. On Instagram I will mostly post running related pictures, but I will occasionally throw in a picture of the latest kitchen creation, something the kids did that I thought was cute or, one of my favorites, a #throwbackthursday pic.
After my run this morning, I posted my usual self-portrait and while refueling on some brunch browsed through what others had put up. It’s always a wide variety, ranging from the hysterical to the sad, from the serious to the ridiculous, but then I came across this photo:
I stopped chewing my food, put my fork down, pulled out my soapbox. There were already several dozen “likes” on the photo and the typical string of “LOL”‘s. I understood the sentiment, I could not abide by the use of the word. I left a comment:
Dislike! Not a fan of using that word – further marginalizes those that are genuinely mentally challenged.
I then added a link to my post when Ann Coulter thought it would be funny to use the R-word in her tweets. I then followed that up with Getting off my soapbox now…sorry about that.
A few minutes later somebody responded: Not sure why everyone needs to tell others what they dislike.
I took a deep breath.
I reached back down to get my soapbox.
And I wrote this:
I hear ya….and honestly, the PC Police go way overboard almost all the time. I am a proponent of teasing. I think it builds character and teaches kids to stick up for themselves, but when people use the word “retard” to put something or someone down and label that thing or person as stupid (which I assume is the implication), it also says that those who are mentally retarded, like my daughter who is on the Autism Spectrum, are less than their neurotypical peers. The problem for me lies in the fact that these kids, very often, cannot defend themselves because they are non-verbal and cannot speak…that doesn’t mean they are necessarily less intelligent. In fact, if given a means of communicating (a tap board, an iPad, etc), these kids often prove to be of above average intelligence…but constantly using their label to put down others has an effect when they can’t defend themselves. Now, if you truly believe that…my daughter is less of a human because of her disability, well, go ahead and use the word and we can part ways knowing we fully disagree on the subject; but if you DO think my daughter should be afforded the same dignity as anyone else, I will only ask you to reconsider the use of the word. At this point in her life, my girl still can’t defend herself…that is why I feel the need to tell others that I dislike the word. Regardless, if you’ve gotten this far in my comment, I appreciate the time you took to read this.
I know I could have worded it better. I know I could have done a much better job explaining why calling someone “retarded” to make them feel bad or laugh at others is offensive (Jess is the wordsmith in the family, not me).
But I also know the poster of the pic did not have any ill intentions. In fact, she apologized and said she would take it down. I’m not sure if that would be the right decision. Were she to keep it up, then other might see my comment, my argument against using the word “retarded” in such an offensive way.
To me, there is nothing wrong with the word itself – it is the way people use it.
My hope is that some day, in the not so distant future, that people, ALL people, will understand that.