Wednesday, October 24, 2012
This is exactly why the word "retard" hurts: All together now!
So, you may have heard that after Monday night's debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney, Ann Coulter tweeted "I highly approve of Romney's decision to be kind and gentle to the retard."
Emanuella Grinberg over at CNN wrote a piece on the incident and the social media backlash, and let me speak my mind. It got some great comments including "It doesn't take intelligence to use offensive words and ethnic words.... It takes intelligence to argue your point in a reasonable and logical way. That is something Ann Coulter seems to have no capability of doing." Also awesome: This open letter Special Olympics athlete and global messenger John Franklin Stephens directed at Coulter. "I realized you just wanted to belittle the President by linking him to people like me," he wrote. "Well, Ms. Coulter, you and society need to learn that being compared to people like me should be considered a badge of honor."
As I type this, Coulter's words have been retweeted 3,248 times—and favorited 1,352 times. So many people just don't get why "retard" is a nasty word to spread around, even if it's in a political context and not directed against anyone with intellectual disability. As usual, I got a bunch of emails from people questioning what's wrong the word. A choice sample:
"I think it is simply ridiculous that words have to be excluded to appease others. I am going to say with 100% certainty that she was not looking to offend your child or any other child for that matter. The word retard while offensive if used to describe specifically children with special needs is not offensive in the context she used it. Free speech is one of the rights in this country and she should be able to say it if she wants to.... Stop being so sensitive, if it were my child and he was special needs I would take offense if someone called my child that name but I would not be offended if they used it in a context that she did.... You seem like a smart lady, you can't tell what context she used it in? We have to erase the word retard from the English language? Come on really. I am not a supporter or defender of Ann Coulter per se but I do support Free Speech even when it is vile."
The Special Olympics has created an entire campaign around the r-word, Spread The Word To End The Word. I've written and written about it, made a video, tweeted away, explained it to friends and family. Many of you have done the same. So this time around I'm giving the post over to you to explain why the word is hurtful—crowd-sourced advocacy! Feel free to link to posts you've written.
Let's make it clear, as parents of kids with special needs or parents of any kids, as family members of people with special needs, as people who have disability, just what's so wrong with this word—and why it's not just about a word and it's not about censorship or a ban, it's about respect.
Have at it.