Today someone very casually asked me if “everyone in the South is a retard.” Classy, huh?
For starters, even if you’re not from here, you live here, in the South, now. So don’t be too terribly surprised when we all turn on you, no shoes and all.
Second of all – really? People still say that? A few months ago my sister-in-law wrote a post about the “R” word, and I was surprised to hear how often she heard it. But then I thought about how she has two little kids, and surely she must have heard it from one of their classmates. I could not picture an adult using the word “retarded” as a synonym for stupid.
And then a grown person walked into my office today and uttered those words. I was floored. I was speechless. And for anyone who knows me (or has spoken to me for five minutes), I am never, ever speechless.
So is this really acceptable? Is it really okay for someone to speak of something like this so casually, as if their words don’t matter? I hope not. I really do. Because if that is the case now, where do we go from here? How much worse does it have to get before someone finally takes offense?
I have a six-year-old niece with Down Syndrome. Her name is Adalie.
Adalie is a good kid. She’s sweet, loves others more than herself, and is always willing to give you a hug whenever you need one. And she will never get to do the same things in the same way as you, because she is retarded. But she isn’t retarded in the way that person meant it today. She isn’t stupid. She isn’t slow. She isn’t weird and she certainly has more to offer this world than some of the “normal” people I’ve come into contact with. She is just a little different.
Don’t let it go any further. You don’t have to have a kid or a niece or a cousin or a friend who learns or talks or acts differently to know that this is wrong. Here’s a good test: If you can replace the word “retarded” in a sentence with “stupid,” pick a different word. Pick a different word for your own sake, but mostly for the sake of all the kids like Adalie out there who will never be considered good enough by ignorant people.
And, for the love of Nancy, DON’T USE IT AT WORK. COME ON. Jerk.
Rant = over.