Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Spread the Word!

Today is the Special Olympics-sponsored "End the R-Word Day."

The R-Word is "Retarded, " AKA, “retard,” and in the last couple of years it’s become part of casual speech in an incredibly dismissive way. Whether it’s spoken by Rahm Emanuel, Rush Limbaugh or the girls at happy hour criticizing the new anti-cell phone driving law, “Oh my god, that is so retarded...” the phrase has become this popular adjective to refer to anything that’s not worth abiding by, that they find annoying or hindering…to anything that has no value.

As such, it’s used to casually dismiss. “You’re going to see that? Don’t be such a retard.” And people with Down syndrome or other disabilities actually have to endure the added indignity of not just having to hear this kind of speech, but also the insult of the user justifying themselves with the excuse of “oh, well, that’s not what the word means when I use it. It has a different meaning now,” and then roll their eyes at our seeming need for political correctness. “Here’s another word I have to pussyfoot around using.”

Before the civil rights era, you’d have heard the N-word spoken without a second thought, too. Because it’s that casual usage and need to defend a phrase that’s loaded with hurt that we need to evolve beyond as a society. Anthony is a person with Down syndrome and our fondest hope is that the world he grows up in is on its way to evolving into a more accepting and tolerant one, where it’s not so easy to dismiss someone with a label of hurt. Where he doesn't feel dismissed and where his value is embraced. Where we actually do think twice before ever using the N-word, the R-word, or any phrase or label that robs someone of their worth. Anthony is a person, an amazing, glorious person and no word is ever going to take that away. But don’t we all want our kids to grow up in a world less hateful than the one we grew up in? Don’t we all want that kind of progress?

Sarah Palin has a child with DS, too, and while there are many who wish she hadn’t somehow become “the face of Down syndrome,” it’s so much more important to look at our daily social behaviors and habits firsthand than to let differences of politics cloud our goals of making our culture a more accepting place for any person who is born facing additional challenges. The first step is becoming aware that the word hurts – that’s what this campaign is all about.

John C McGinley, an actor and advocate for Down syndrome awareness, said it really well. “Most people don't think of this word as the language of hate, but that's exactly what it feels like to millions of people with intellectual disabilities, their families and friends. I choose to believe that most of us are fundamentally good and that we're just not aware that the word is offensive and that it hurts."

There's some great information about this campaign out there today, including strong support from the NBA...

...and the campaign website itself...
Thanks for taking a moment today to slow down and consider this great opportunity we have to retire something ugly from our world. Its time has come, its day is done. Let's make the R-Word a dinosaur and the future a little bit better place. If we each encourage one person to stop using this phrase, imagine what tomorrow might bring?
-Anthony's Dad


  1. Thank you Paul, Susan and Anthony - I am more mindful of so many things because of your loving family.

  2. Well said, Paul. I think of Anthony, you and Susan every time I have the opportunity to (tactfully, I hope) spread the message.