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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The hill you die upon

My older brother has taught me two very smart lessons.  1) Never play kid music in your car.  Your car, your music. Unless you want to listen to Cailou's Greatest Hits for eternity.  (Good advice Big Bro.  That's why my kiddo requests Queen and James Taylor when we drive.) 2) "The hill you die upon."  He was saying it in regards to a person we both knew that had started a Facebook scuffle.  The topic? The "R" word.  On my own personal profile page.  One person just could not wrap his head around the idea that this might be offensive, demeaning and just plain hurtful despite my own and others' request to drop it.   I will never forget talking about it later with my brother and how he just summed it up perfectly. "Like that's the hill he wanted to die upon. Really?"

In case you haven't figured it out by now, autism is one of the hills I will do battle on but spreading the word to end the word is another.  Let's just take a moment and explore the stages of a person who uses this word and is corrected for it.  Most of the time it is a case of they just didn't think or know better.  They usually make amends and we all move on.  There are others who cannot take being told that their speech is offensive and it usually goes something like this;

Yes, free speech protects you. It gives you the right to say it.  It also gives me the right to react to it.  It doesn't protect you from hearing my retort because there's me using my right to free speech.  Isn't that marvelous how that works?  

You are offended that you have been ask to NOT use a word that you used to use when you were on the playground as a ten year old.  Haven't you changed since then?  You used to think New Kids on the Block was the best band ever.  Still do?  Didn't think so. Perhaps it's time to embrace that's using the word "retard" or saying "that's retarded" makes you sound about as outdated as an 8 track player. 

You can't understand why I get so worked up over this word.  I can't understand why you get so worked up over defending your right to it.  Hear what I am about to say.   You're not offended until it effects you.  Then you will be up in arms.  So understand this is my up in arms moment and always will be. This is the hill I am willing to die upon.  I have a son with autism so of course, this is extremely personal to me.  Look around my friend, autism is everywhere.  Closer to you than you might even be aware of and I haven't even touched on those with other disabilities.  If you are kind enough to hold a door for someone, why can't you hold your tongue about a single word?

Oh you want to bust out a dictionary and point out how this word is used in music.  How right on the sheet music of a song you see it, alerting the reader the song is to be played slowly.   Yeah, are we really at this moment talking about that? We're not. You know it.  I know it. You know when you hear someone use that argument of "Oh why can't I say the "N" word cause rappers do".  You're not Jay Z and no I"m not a fan of that word either.  When you defend your right to use the "R" word, that's what you sound like to me.  Just as ridiculous. You will never hear my son refer to another person who has any sort of intellectual disability by this term and mean it in some endearing/bonding way.  Nope. 

Oh it's a medical term!  Yes, a completely outdated and no longer used one.  If you see a doctor that still uses it, I urge you to find new medical care.  Chances are they aren't up on a lot of medical information either.  

Things can be fire retardant.  Why yes, they can be and thank goodness for such a technological advance. I am rather firmly against things catching fire.  I am also  against you pretending this argument is valid when you try to compare fire retardant treated items and the phrase "That's retarded!" as the same.  It's not.  One keeps kid's pajamas from catching fire.  The other is used to liken a human being to an object that no one wants or values.

It's boils down to this.  Be kind.  Compassion is missing far too often in this world.    You may say "I didn't mean your kiddo." but here's the thing.  You referred to some body's kid.  Another human being, who has a family and friends. Likes and dislikes. Strengths and weaknesses.  Something to offer this Earth we all live on. If you have not already, I urge you to take the pledge at http://www.r-word.org/. 

We all have many battles to fight but don't let this be the hill you choose to die upon.  Choose kindness.  Choose empathy. Choose anything but this word.   Choose to have an open mind. 

45 comments:

  1. It's mind-boggling that a "friend" would go to such lengths to defend his right to hurt you. Why NOT use that energy to be kind?

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    1. Why not find another friend

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  2. This is a fight I will fight as well. Currently, there is a person from the past who still uses this word and now he shall be educated!

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  3. BRAVA!!!! I wrote a post about this once, when a "friend" casually used the "R" word in reference to my son. She demanded that I take the post down and got her peeps to threaten me, but I CHOSE THAT HILL. Kept it up, reached a LOT of people...I am with you, Side of fries. Love,

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  4. Wow. That was great. Thank you!

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  5. [oops, forgot to check "notify me" - hi!]

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  6. I love this so much. What a great analogy.

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  7. Awesome thank you for sharing. :)

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  8. What an incredible post! Thank you - that seems inadequate. I am going to share this with my friends as well, in the hope that they will pass it on.

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  9. Fantastic,its a vile word in whatever context its used in xxxx

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  10. My son is severely autistic and intellectually challenged. I, however, am not offended by the word "retarded." It is a clinically correct term and the terms that people find politically correct change all the time. Some people find the term "disabled" to be offensive. However, that "intellectually disabled" is the official code for my son according to our local school system. Just because people turned mentally retarded into a derogatory form of the word meant as an insult to others, does not mean that there is anything wrong with the term mentally retarded used in the correct context. I also had a brother with CP who had MR.

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    1. You are a terrible parent.

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    2. It's all about the context to me. When you hear people saying, "That's so r-------," they are not referring to the clinical term. Or, "He's such a ******." If it were being used only in the medical way, we would not have this battle. It is now in the vernacular with a meaning that refers to the people on whom it could be used as a clinical term as an example of the lowest things a person could be. That's why we have to stop it's use.

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    3. Rotten autocorrect. *its, not it's. I know you know, I'm just particular about these things.

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    4. It's all about the context to me. When you hear people saying, "That's so r-------," they are not referring to the clinical term. Or, "He's such a ******." If it were being used only in the medical way, we would not have this battle. It is now in the vernacular with a meaning that refers to the people on whom it could be used as a clinical term as an example of the lowest things a person could be. That's why we have to stop it's use.

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    5. I completely agree with you about mental retardation. For 34 years I have used this term to describe my son's disability to those who do not understand the term developmentally disabled. But sometimes I hear grown adults say things like " you're such a retard!", or "how retarded!", it makes my blood boil. So I purchased 50 wristbands that say "SPREAD THE WORD TO END THE WORD". I plan on carrying them with me at work and handing them out to the surgeons and anesthesiologists who use the word retard as an adjective.

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    6. Why would you use the r-word to describe your son when you could simply explain developmental disability - and not perpetuate the use of the term - clincal or otherwise?

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    7. Bravo! And as a professional musician, let me add this to your weaponry .... it's "ritard" with an 'i' which is short for the Italian "ritardando, to gradually slow down. So there's the argument when you are told "but it's used in music", because it isn't. Plain and simple;

      Blessings to you!

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    8. My son has autism and is developmentally diabled. MR as a medical term doesn't offend me, but people who use it as a derogatory term aren't doctors. I am offended by the new term "intellectual disability." I would rather hear "retarded" than that!

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    9. My son has autism and is developmentally diabled. MR as a medical term doesn't offend me, but people who use it as a derogatory term aren't doctors. I am offended by the new term "intellectual disability." I would rather hear "retarded" than that!

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  11. I learned something today.

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  12. I just LOVE the analogy here. As parents of kids with awesomeness we have to face many battles as we defend and equip our kids to live in this world. I can't think of a better hill to die upon than one that demands others treat my kids and others with respect. Wonderful post!

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  13. Bravo!!! Well written Mama. I just shared this with my lecturer.... she loves it too. Because yes I have been getting VOCAL with tge younger people in our classes who use this word... NOW THEY GET IT! Thank you so much. You help not just your kiddo... but all of us and our kiddos too. ♥♥♥♥

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  14. Retard is a remorseful word,pathetic word better people should sparingly use

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  15. Great article! -L

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  16. Awesome! This article gave me chills at the end because of how adamant and defensive I am over the word as well... you said it everyway I'd like to when I hear the "R" word... someone wouldn't appreciate it if they had a child with autism or any other disability for that matter... thank you!

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  17. I too have an Autistic son, at the moment I am at odds with my boss over her use of this hateful word! The kick in the gut is, I work for a special needs program for the military, she's in charge of the program. Twice now she has used the "R" word as a slur. I pointed out to her, not only is it a slap in the face to me, but as the manager of this program she should know better. I've gone to her boss to complain. Thank you for doing your part to end this!

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    1. Thanks for fighting the good fight.

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  18. When I hear someone blatantly use the R word, if they do not believe it is a problem, I get very calm and offer them a deal.

    "You're right, words aren't important. You can call my daughter a r****d if I can call your President a n****r. Deal?"

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  19. Great piece. One small correction: the musical term is "ritardando" (often abbreviated to "rit."), not "retard" or "retarded." It's Italian for "becoming slower" and it is always a temporary direction. Neither circumstance fits "retard" in this derogatory usage, and I guarantee that the musicians are not thinking of themselves or any of their fellow musicians as inferior in any way for following the musical direction. I have an autistic granddaughter and if I ever hear anybody call her such an awful name, I may just yank off my artificial leg and beat them over the head with it. And yes, I genuinely have a disability. She marches to a different drummer sometimes, but her only real handicap is ignorant people.

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  20. i'm a loved one, & even tho i hate the r-word even being spelled out and won't do it, i love ur blog and shared it on all platforms i could. i took the pledge yrs ago when i first found r-word.org and despite my severe social anxiety, i've been doing my best to fight this battle.. reporting posts/tweets/etc and trying to educate the ppl, usually failing lol, but i still try. thank u for being so honest, frustrated, loving, and supportive of this cause. it's an uphill battle, but one we need to win!

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  21. Awesome! I hate the r word! Nicely written!

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  22. Thank you for touching on all the arguments people use to justify hurtful, hateful speech. (My other annoyance is calling something, "so gay," or using any related words as put-downs.) When my kids and their friends were younger and captive audiences in my car, I didn't hesitate to correct and educate them every chance I got. After a while, they at least learned not to use those slurs in my presence. I'm happy to say that I don't hear it as much, but if I do, I do take the opportunity to point out the offense. I've taken the pledge and post as many Spread the Word posts as I can in an effort to educate others. As an educator who works with kids with a variety of challenges and who personally know adults with developmental disabilities, this is my hill.

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  23. Well said! I have a grown son who has autism, along with a myriad of other disabilities. I'm also a teacher. Whenever I hear a student use the 'r' word, I quietly correct the student and let him/her know why it offends me. Many people don't even think about using it as being disparaging to people who are "other-abled". They tell me that they didn't mean it that way. I respond that since they were giving their friend a put-down, how else should it be interpreted? I also tell them about my son, which usually makes their eyes pop out of their heads, realizing that a real live person is being affected by their words.

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  24. I had my first Facebook un-friend this week due to this a few days ago. I shared a post about the end the R-word day and an old roommate came back with "That's retarted politically correct nonsense" or something like that. He knows my child is an autistic non-verbal 3 year old. I came back with a message about how there's nothing political about it. It's just about respect for people like my son. And also about not sounding 12. His response? That I was teaching my child to be a victim. That I need to toughen him up. Yeah right, the kid I still haven't had a conversation with. I found out that un-friending is not enough, you need to block people. Private messages escalated with me dropping f-bombs and him saying something like "sounds like quite the offspring you have bred." For him to act that way makes me think he must actually be some sort of sociopath. Some people don't have a conscience. Maybe I shouldn't have shared the thing in the first place. It's sort of just jackass bait, right? Anyway, hopefully a guy I will never hear from or see again.

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  25. I actually lot a friend over this exact argument. I couldn't understand her stoic defense of the word.... as her freedom of speech... but not my response to her use of the word... as mine.

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  26. Hello there this is Keegan again from the Sluis academy and i must say what a great piece of advice. when i do have kids i will make sure to remember that one. If they dont know it can be done then they wont as for it! brilliant!

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  27. My sister has Downs and I love this:) As a fire-back to the music response, the r-word is NOT used in music. The word is ritardano and is abbreviated at rit., so this is not a valid argument:)

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