Last week a purposely controversial political pundit once again generated publicity for herself through her use of the word “retard” to describe the president on Twitter.
One thoughtful response came from a father of a daughter with Down syndrome who tweeted, “We don’t get to choose what words hurt others; we do get to choose whether or not we use those words. Choose wisely.”
In another response, Special Olympian Joseph Franklin Stephens wrote, “I thought first of asking whether you meant … someone who was bullied as a child by people like you, but rose above it to find a way to succeed in life … I wondered if you meant … someone who has to struggle to be thoughtful about everything he says, as everyone else races from one snarky sound bite to the next … Finally, I wondered if you meant … someone who is likely to receive bad health care, live in low grade housing with very little income and still manages to see life as a wonderful gift … Because … that is who we are – and much, much more.”
Stephens also appeared on Piers Morgan with Special Olympics CEO Tim Shriver.
“The word retard is offensive and I should not be a symbol for someone who is dumb and shallow,” Stephens said. “If they wanted to use me as a symbol, use me as a symbol for someone who fights adversity.”
The End the Word website, www.r-word.org, includes this statement from Stephens, “It hurts and scares me when I am the only person with intellectual disabilities on the bus and young people start making ‘retard’ jokes … 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.”
The nationwide movement to “End the Word” is not about being politically correct. It is about listening to individuals who have been labeled with that word and respecting their request that people stop using it. It’s as simple as that.
John Dickerson, Executive Director, The Arc of Indiana
Sarah Baldini, State Director, Best Buddies Indiana
Melody Cooper, President, Self-Advocates of Indiana
Michael Furnish, President/CEO, Special Olympics Indiana
Dr. David Mank, Director, Indiana Institute on Disability and Community