In the past week, I've been unucky enough to be around no less than 5 people who have unfortunatley chosen to use the R word around me. What's the R word? Come on now, it's the last acceptable slur in our vernacular, the thing all teenagers call each other without questioning why it's wrong, it's the thing people call themselves when they do something stupid or ugly. It's disgusting and wrong. Retarded, tard, retard, or any variation with 'tard' at the end, it's all the same.
I debated heavily even writing this post, because every single person who said it in front of me, immediately looked stricken, and apologized and clearly realized their faux pas. In every instance, I looked at my friend, acquaintance or colleague and said "please don't use that word, it's not ok". I accepted the apologies and moved on. I figured if I tell people it's not ok, eventually it'll will sink in that it's not just NOT OK around me, but it's NOT OK ever.
Last night I was out with girlfriends, sharing many bottles wine, when one of my friends said it. I don't even know what was happening I just heard it and stopped. I said "Don't say that word. ever. It's not ok." And my friend, who is kind and compassionate and loves me and my kid and every human on this planet crumbled. It was as if she hadn't realized what she was saying and she was horrified. She immediately beat herself up and burst into tears, repeating how she is always the person who gets mad a other people who say it.
And that right there is why I needed to write this post. Because it's so ingrained in our history as an ok thing to say that when our defenses our down, when the wine has kicked in, it just comes out. I'll say right here and now, I love dearly each of my friends that has said this word recently. I don't hold it against them that this slipped out, especially because each of them realized it immediately and made amends. I don't hold it against them because they are human, and so am I and trust me sometimes I'm a complete asshole. To err is human, right?
But no matter how awesome you are, when you let this slip out, you are hurting people that may not be able to defend themselves. When you let this word enter your vernacular, you hurt people like my kid. My kid, who attends a special ed classroom, and who can't carry on a conversation, or get dressed without help. My kid, who may never be able to live alone, hold down a job or drive a car. My kid who may just end up being smarter than each and every one of us, and who may just hold the key to changing the world. But when you use the R word, you don't give her that chance, that opportunity, you strip her of her brilliance, and beauty.
So please. Try harder.