You know that adage “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”?
Words are some of the most powerful weapons there are. Words have started wars, incited violence, and caused people–innocent people–to harm or even kill themselves. Words hurt, period.
And that includes the R-word.
It’s not cute. It’s not funny. It’s not “cool”.
It hurts. It hurts Sarah and every other child like her, who marches to the beat of their own chromosomally enhanced drum. It hurts me on behalf of my sister, who once told me that she didn’t like hearing that word because it felt like the other kids were saying that it was bad to be like her. It hurts people with autism, with cerebral palsy, with TBI, with dyslexia…it hurts anybody who is a little bit different, who has to work a little bit harder, but who is worth every bit as much as anyone else.
You might think it’s okay. You might think it’s “just a word”, that you don’t “mean it that way”, that I’m “too sensitive”. But let me tell you something.
When you say that word, I picture my daughter. I don’t hear “You’re so retarded” or “that’s so retarded” or “you’re a tard”. I hear “That’s so Sarah.” “You’re so Sarah.” “You’re a Sarah.” I hear “That’s so Hannah.” “You’re so Hannah.” “You’re a Hannah.”
I picture you saying it right to their faces. I picture you looking at my sweet, bubbly baby, my sister, who loved every person and dog she ever met as if she’d known them her whole life, and I picture you saying those words to their faces. It’s not just a word. It’s an attack. An attack on the most vulnerable, most innocent members of our society, and it’s not fair. It’s not right.
You wouldn’t call a black person a “nigger”. You wouldn’t call me a “fag”, or a lesbian a “dyke”. You wouldn’t use those words to mean bad or wrong or stupid, either. So why would you call someone a retard?
Today, I’m asking you to make a lifestyle change. I’m asking you to go to http://www.r-word.org and take the pledge–for today and every day–to eliminate that word from your vocabulary, today and every day. It doesn’t take much, but you can change the world just by changing your words. Do it for Sarah. Do it for Hannah. Do it for the hundreds of thousands of people in this country like them. They deserve better.