A subsection of an article written by John Franklin Stephens, published in The Denver Post, USA (Read more: Using the word “retard” to describe me hurts – The Denver Posthttp://www.denverpost.com/commented/ci_10351963#ixzz2AjEJSjaY
What’s the big deal about using the word “retard”?………Let me try to explain.
I am a 26-year-old man with Down Syndrome. I am very lucky…..and have a good life……I am a Global Messenger for Special Olympics and make speeches to people all over the country…..
The hardest thing about having an intellectual disability is the loneliness. We process information slower than everyone else. So even normal conversation is a constant battle for us not to lose touch with what the rest of you are saying. Most of the time the words and thoughts just go too fast for us to keep up, and when we finally say something it seems out of place.
We are aware when all the rest of you stop and just look at us. We are aware when you look at us and just say, “unh huh,” and then move on, talking to each other. You mean no harm, but you have no idea how alone we feel even when we are with you…….
So, what’s wrong with “retard”? I can only tell you what it means to me and people like me when we hear it. It means that the rest of you are excluding us from your group. We are something that is not like you and something that none of you would ever want to be. We are something outside the “in” group. We are someone that is not your kind. I want you to know that it hurts to be left out here….
You don’t mean to make me feel that way. In fact, like I say in some of my speeches, “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers,” and it works out OK most of the time. Still, it hurts and scares me when I am the only person with intellectual disabilities on the bus and young people start making “retard” jokes or references.
Please put yourself on that bus and fill the bus with people who are different from you. Imagine that they start making jokes using a term that describes you. It hurts and it is scary.
Last, I get the joke — the irony — that only dumb and shallow people are using a term that means dumb and shallow. The problem is, it is only funny if you think a “retard” is someone dumb and shallow. I am not those things, but every time the term is used it tells young people that it is OK to think of me that way and to keep me on the outside.
That is why using “retard” is a big deal to people like me.
John Franklin Stephens is a Special Olympics Virginia athlete and Global Messenger who lives in Fairfax, Va.
Read more:Using the word “retard” to describe me hurts – The Denver Posthttp://www.denverpost.com/commented/ci_10351963#ixzz2AjEJSjaY