One of the more…interesting things I’ve come to realize over the last 13 months is there are some people in the world with some…unique views.
I have heard and read people defending the use of the word “retard” and all its various forms. The special needs community is being “too sensitive” when we ask people to just use a different word instead. The English language is a most colorful language. Any language that counts the word “dingleberry” as one of its many insults surely has a wide range of words to choose from other than “retard.”
Using the word retard or describing something as retarded just shows a plain lack of creativity.
It also shows an obvious disregard for people like my child. It’s pretty easy not to use the word and I’m always a bit confused as to why people insist that they say it when there are so many other words to choose from.
Anyways, I hear a lot of “it’s no big deal” and “not a fight worth fighting” and “we’re being too politically correct.” And while it might seem that way to some people, every now and again something happens that should make it glaringly obvious why the Down syndrome community promotes People First, appropriate language.
A few days ago, GQ magazine published an article online discussing the finer points of Boston’s lack of fashion sense. I cannot link to the original article as it has already been edited, but when describing just how bad Bostonian fashion sense is, the author wrote:
“Due to so much local in-breeding, Boston suffers from a kind of Style Down Syndrome, where a little extra ends up ruining everything.”
Only in a culture where it is still socially acceptable to make the intellectually disabled the brunt of a joke would this have been published. It had to come from the writer’s mind, get typed onto a computer screen, gone over for spelling and grammar errors, be approved by an editor, and ultimately be published online for anyone to read. There were a lot of points when someone could have said “um, maybe this isn’t the best phrase?” Furthermore, if you go into the comments section of the article and the article on the Boston Herald that covered this fine piece of writing, you’ll see people defending their rights to use whatever language they want and saying that the Down syndrome community is “looking” for a problem.
Oh, how I wish I had the time to look for a problem like this. Alas. I’m too busy having fun with my child and living life to go looking for problems. But when I find one, or one is brought to my attention, yes, I’m going to speak out.
So, still think there’s no problem with language in our country? Still think the Down syndrome community is being too sensitive when we ask for certain words not to be used? Writers using my child’s diagnosis as a joke and people defending it? I’d love to hear what these same people would have to say if the sentence said something about “style heart failure” or “style cancer.” Why do people insist that Down syndrome is something that doesn’t need advocacy? Why must we be accused of being the PC Police when we’re only asking for the same respect that everyone else in this country takes for granted?
Oh my, do we still have work to do.
In response to this, Dr. Brian Skotko wrote a great piece for Children’s Hospital of Boston. You can read it here.