Erase the Word

A few holidays ago, a friend and I were chatting, when she said it.

‘That’s so retarded’ in reference to something happening in her life.

At first I was floored. I hadn’t heard anyone say that word in I don’t know how long.

She wasn’t done though. The story went on. She described a place and people. As I listened to her, waiting to see if she’d notice my face, I thought about how she is an educated woman. She is a kind woman. She is not malicious or evil.

And yet she’s using the R-word as a way to negatively describe. She must not know.

I knew I had to say something. And it was going to be uncomfortable.

‘When you say retarded, what are you thinking of? Is it Cooper?’

She gasped and said no. Not Cooper.

‘But you are thinking of a person, right?’

The silence hung in the air between us. I knew she was. Because that’s unfortunately what comes to a person’s mind when they say that word. They are using a diagnosis of differently abled people to insult. That’s the truth of it.

I went onto tell her that 8 years ago, not 30 or 50 years like one would think, mental retardation was mentioned as a diagnosis for Cooper. The little boy she loves. And while yes, we lived in rural Minnesota, it still felt archaic and wrong. And while it was a valid diagnosis at one point, maybe even still is, it comes with way to much social baggage. I took my son and left the clinic that day. We didn’t go back.

I rarely tell anyone that story. Because I don’t want anyone to think of my son that way. In a negative light. Because he is sunshine and clouds and those rare moments when it rains when the sun is shining.

What he isn’t is a derogatory term. He isn’t a punch line. Or an insult.

He is a human being.

A description of retarded is not okay. Not anymore. It’s a different time and when we know better we do better.

It’s also not funny. In fact it makes the person who says it look like an ignorant jerk. And I’m going to guess that like my friend, most don’t want to look that way. Most don’t know.

Let’s erase the word and eventually maybe, just maybe, our way of thinking as a whole.

We can do this. Because we are good people.

Search the #erasetheword to see a dozen more beautiful posts just like this one. A group of moms and adult advocates working to change the world.

Finding Cooper’s Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you’re never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village….all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to our journey. You can also follow us on Facebook, subscribe for exclusive videos, and subscribe to our newsletter.

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Finding Cooper's Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you're never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village....all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to my page!

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