I’m not easily offended.
Mostly, I choose to ignore things that may be offensive to me, or live my life in such a way that whatever was said couldn’t possibly be true. And usually that works for me. But there are a few things that I cannot ignore.
This weekend, I heard a (fellow) special education teacher use the word “retarded”. Not in describing a diagnosis code. Not in describing the rate of someone’s development.
She said something like, “Well, that’s retarded!” when someone said something she deemed annoying or stupid.
This, I cannot ignore. This is a means of insulting someone by linking them to a group of people with various diagnoses and developmental anomalies.
This, I cannot accept. This link implies that the speaker believes that those who have mental retardation are less.
The thing about people with mental retardation is that they are not just a group with various diagnoses and developmental anomalies.
They are people with an extra chromosome.
They are people who lacked oxygen at birth.
They are babies who were shaken.
They are the 1 in 88 children (1 in 54 boys) that are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (although many have IQs not in the range of “mental retardation”, all do not develop social skills normally).
They are the children who were not read to when they were small.
They are children who did not get proper nutrition.
They are the adults who cannot speak.
They are our neighbors.
They are my students.
They are my friends.
And many of them cannot defend themselves.
So, I cannot accept it when someone uses the word “retarded”. You cannot marginalize the most loving, beautiful, best people I have ever had the privilege to know and expect me to let it go—and you shouldn’t let it go, either.
Next time you want to call someone (or something) “retarded”, please remember that you are comparing them to this beautiful, insightful, joyful boy:
Do they really deserve to be in his company?
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