Thursday, October 25, 2012

Why do I do it? The "r" word...

Every now and then, someone of "higher stature" (celebrity, politician, tv personality, etc) says the "r" word (retarded).  Sometimes it "slips", sometimes it "wasn't meant that way" and sometimes it was cruel, harsh and said intentionally to be hateful or for "shock value" Regardless of the "sometimes" behind it - it's never ok and that has to change. The excuses, the reasons... all irrelevant and need to stop.

When these times happen, awesome agencies like the Special Olympics and their campaign, Spread the Word to End the Word, or another one that is close to my heart The Social Challenge step up and speak out.  And they are not alone.  Millions of people, like myself and others who love someone with a disability, stand united using our voices to say "Enough. It's time for change. It's time for respect."  We use social media, Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, blogging - whatever medium we are comfortable using our voices in.  We tell our story, we share our feelings, we try to put this fight for change into words that our family and friends will understand so they think twice before using the "r" word.

Usually, this flurry of empowerment and change is met with significant support and little to no questioning.  When Lady Gaga said the accusations of plagiarism "retarded."we spoke out, and no one said why?   (and yes, she did apologize) No one questioned our mission, our purpose, our voices.
Each time this happens (and it happens often) we speak up.  Until recently, no one has ever questioned "why".

So why now?  Why now when Ann Coulter makes multiple Tweets not "slipping" with her choice of words but using "retard" and "retarded" intentionally to be derogatory and hateful - yes, hateful,  it is a hate word - why now is our mission being questioned?

Why?  Because people can't see past the politics.  I have a little newsflash... this ISN'T about POLITICS.  This isn't about giving her a platform, this isn't about making her name more known, this - honestly - isn't even about getting an apology from her. It's not.  It's not about Republicans or Democrats.  It's not.  There is a bigger picture to our message.

We are very intelligent people.  We aren't trying to change Ann Coulter, because we can't.  We pick our battles.  Some people (Lady Gaga Gaga, Kristie Alley, LaBron James, John Lackey and more) do apologize.  They do understand when a mistake has been pointed out.  They, however, were also not being intentional.  To me, there is a difference.  When you are intentional as Ann was, she's not going to change. Rosa's Law   (that was signed into law on October 5th, 2010) and the millions of people living with a disability are all of irrelevant and non existent to Ann and people like her.

My goal isn't to make her, or those like her, "see the light" (although I will still try to make that happen) *MY GOAL* is to make them the minority, to make that group of insensitive people so tiny that their voices aren't heard... but mine and the millions that echo the same words I do... ours are.  Our voices, our united voices, reach the masses and create change so that these discussions are a thing of the past and respect is an every day occurrence.

I hear your argument - when we say her name, when we talk about her Tweet, when we share this message that includes her - you feel as though we are boosting her up.  We are giving her some sort of leverage, power, publicity, platform... we are not.  We see, in this and in all of our efforts, the bigger picture.  We don't see Ann.  We see the hundreds of thousands of people who are unsure of why they can't use the "r" word.  And it is them that we reach out to.  Are "we" using Ann?  Yes, we are.  We are using her to get you to stop and read our side, our stories, our words.  Because THAT is what the newspaper articles, radio and tv interviews, social media posts and blogs are about...the bigger picture... USOur words.  Our disabilities.Our struggles. Our triumphs. Our joys.   For every blog or print piece that people read that mentions FRAGILE X SYNDROME, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy and other disabilities - we have potentially reached one more person.  We have taken one more step to possibly helping to get someone accurately diagnosed. We have raised awareness and when we can offered some education.  We have taught them about our families, our friends, our special needs community.  We have taught them that the "r" word HURTS, it is hateful, it has to stop being said.  And that message, my friends, has absolutely nothing to do with Ann.  She is the ladder to our diving board - to our platform, to take back our respect, to change this world one step at a time.

There is a bigger picture to the work that we do.  There is a bigger message.  With this in mind, go back and read these or the thousands of others and see the real purpose to the words. The real meaning.  The real step being taken.

Ann Coulter Just Doesn't Get It - written by the sister of someone with Fragile X
An Open Letter to Ann Coulter - written by Special Olympics athlete and global messenger John Franklin Stephens
Because Ann Coulter Needs to Improve Her Vocabulary - written by a wonderful Fragile X Mom, Faydra Stratton
Let's talk about the word - respect  by another amazing Fragile X Mom, Cortney Abouelseoud
Conversation with 2nd graders by a very dear friend and awesome Fragile X Mom, Bonnie Korman

Let's look even further and have a little reminder that there is a bigger picture message in everything written on the topic of the "r" word... do you see/hear/understand the real message here?  The reasons not to use this word?  If not, please read it again.

Would you call my child retard?
Stop Using Retard

The "r" Word

Why are we still saying retarded?
Dad demands apology

Do I need to post more?  There are literally thousands... I could keep posting.

Please... Stop using the "r" word.  Stop letting it "slip".  Stop saying you "didn't mean it that way"  Stop letting it be intentional.  These are MY children. My family. My loved ones. My friends. My community.  You don't get to use that word without seeing their faces, without realizing they are people, without realizing it is hateful.  It is NEVER a compliment.  So stop apologizing. Stop making excuses.  It's so much easier to make that change and be respectful. Why would you want to be any other way?

One last piece to leave you with... one of the projects I am most proud to be a part of The Social Challenge.  If you are still on the fence, please watch my video.