Most people have someone special who they think of every time an uninformed individual decides to call someone retarded. Personally, as someone who loves learning new words and meanings, I’m baffled that people choose to use the word 'retarded' as often as they do. In my common experience, I’ve noticed a lack of sensitivity towards the language we use to describe people. Why has it become a “thing” to demean people by calling them "retarded?" Every day is an opportunity to make a change, and today, I’m going to do just that.
I’m not a social expert, and I’m definitely not qualified to make factual statements about what the origin of the issue is. I am, however, qualified to encourage everyone to take a step back and think about what you are saying before you say it. I recently talked to a wonderful friend of mine about her perspective on “Spreading the Word to End the Word,” and it was truly eye opening. It made me think, maybe that is the issue. That I simply didn’t know. What do I mean by that? Ignorance is not always bliss.
Meagan has been a friend of mine since freshman year and we’ve become close with one another’s families. If you know Meagan, you’ve heard her talk about Cody. I always laugh watching them hang out with each other. He gives her a look, she gives him one back, and its game on like any girl with a brother knows. Cody has Tetrasomy 9P, meaning he has four copies of his ninth chromosome while most people have two. Cody’s great at playing basketball, and he loves to play it. He’s an outdoorsy kind of guy but don’t you dare take away his movie time. He graduated high school last year and has moved on to further his education by enrolling in the LIFE program. On top of that, Cody has game. The first time I met him he just came on over and hugged me with a sparkle in his eye. He’s basically the bomb. The point is, Cody can be called a lot of things. He can be called a student, a movie fanatic, an outdoorsman and an athlete, but not retarded.
I’m taking the time to become informed. I encourage you all to do the same. Ask questions, don’t be afraid. Every question you don’t ask is a learning opportunity lost. Be responsible and do your part to become an informed speaker. Don’t dance around the topic or make assumptions. Just be polite. Most people will not fault you for having good intentions. There will always be a few people who exercise their Right to Free Speech and could care less about who they hurt in the process. Well, bless their heart (I mean that in the most southern way possible) and accept that some people are unwilling to be respectful. You’ll probably have a strong urge to step up and give them a piece of your mind, but all you can do is walk away and hope for change.
I do a lot of stupid things. The number of times I’ve walked out of the house with my shirt inside out is embarrassing and I often forget I’m in public and start singing along to the song in Starbucks. We all have our quirks; they are what make us who we are. Words hold the power to break and take away someone’s confidence by making fun of what makes them special. Try to imagine a world where everyone has the same faults and talents, life would be boring and dull. Be thankful for the array of personalities and abilities this world contains. Everyone’s light shines a little differently, so take the opportunity to inform yourself and learn how to appreciate peoples gifts no matter what they are. We can all learn a little from Meagan’s perspective, “People like Cody don’t have a disability, they have different abilities.”