Seek and you will find

Monday, April 23, 2012

Sticks and stone can break my bones, but words can hurt the most

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.


  1. Well, I have read most all your post tonight, I cannot sleep. I like this one, maybe the most. People use the R word without thinking how it links to folks it hurts. This will be a process that will take the same amount of time, I think, as for people not to use the N word. I have a sybling that loves saying the N word & will tell you they are a racist. It is ok in their opinion for a white person to marry any race but the black race. I despise, yes, despise,(not hate) bullies and folks that make fun of others knowing it is hurtful. So keep up the reminders that words can and do hurt :(- -----------------------how do you get your name to show up on this comment? I figured it out on the other comment I left regarding your Mothers Day Post......ugh, just going to sign my name here: Aunt Karen

  2. Melony WalkerGardnerJune 18, 2012 at 9:44 AM

    Love this post, Kristen!! You are so right. I absolutely hate this word and can't believe people use it. I love reading your blogs!!

  3. Love it and Madi does too! Thanks for writing it!

  4. I work in special education and one of my students was picked up early from school. The dad told him "come on, retard" as they left. What a crushing blow! I was shocked that we have spent years building these kids up and realized they are destroyed at home. It is sickening and I hate the word. Yes, hate...because it is flat out wrong and ugly.

    I love these kids and know each one has much to offer and I am so glad to share the world with them. They make me happy and I hope I help make them happy each day with just a hug or a laugh or an attentive ear.

  5. Kudos to you, Kristen! The use of the "R" word or the "N" word or any other derogatory comment makes my blood boil. That level of ignorance never ceases to amaze me. I grew up with a cousin who had Down's Syndrome, and it was a privilege to have known and loved her all the years she was here. I remember playing ball with her in the yard. My dad (your uncle, "Dump," if you remember him) would pitch to her, and she could knock the seams out of a softball. Of course, she would run directly to third base, but who cares??!! We were all enjoying the summer, accepting each other's differences, and having fun. Yes, we all knew she had Down's Syndrome and what all that entailed, but she was just Jackie, never my "retarded" cousin Jackie. As for the stereotypical comment about those of us born south of the Mason-Dixon Line, I wonder if the person who said that is even remotely as successful or influential as Louis Armstrong, Jimmy Carter, Billy Graham, Thomas Jefferson, Harper Lee, or Martin Luther King, Jr. Somehow, I am guessing that the answer is no, but, then again, I am from the South, so I could easily be wrong......