While working on the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign this past Tuesday I was a little bit caught off guard by adults who chose to defend their usage of the word.
Several defenses were given and they ranged from; “I don’t think of your child as retarded so I am going to keep using it” or “I don’t mean anything by it” and my personal favorite “I don’t appreciate being publicly scolded for using the word and would appreciate you speaking to me in private about it therefore I am going to keep using the word”
My girlfriend Robin had a student in one of the schools tell her the while she doesn’t use the R word, she wouldn’t sign the pledge because she strongly believes in free speech. That made us laugh hard.
My sister and I had a conversation about the campaign and she and I communicate easily so I decided today that I would set the tone for this conversation between you and me. In your mind, I want you to think of your favorite place to curl up with a cup of coffee or tea. We are in our jammies, life is easy going, and the following said in a very soft, gentle tone.
I am not sure what politically correct means. It is not a phrase I use or think about. It is worn-out, and has been, overused, and abused. We are not asking you to be politically correct. We are asking for our nation to be fans of dignity. Asking for our nation to think about words and the power they hold.
You and I both will make mistakes in our speech. We will hurt someone we don’t intend to. That is understood and it is a part of life. I certainly do not hold it against anyone if a slip of the tongue happens. For me personally I have done it too many times to count and I apologize and make the necessary adjustments to ensure I don’t do it again – but none of us are perfect.
My friend Jill lives in Chicago and she and I have been through a lot together. She is someone I love and she loves my little girl with a passion. In fact, she is so passionate that I know she loves Larkin with the same depth as if she had given birth to her. Jill was kind enough to publish on a social networking page a link to the campaign. A friend of hers immediately posted a slam saying “that’s re*arded” and I quickly responded that the “friend” should read my blog and realize her hateful retort and speech was out of line. This adult was at first apologetic and then quickly became defensive and angry for being called out in public. If you do not want to be called out in public – then don’t use hate speech in public.
The defensiveness and stubbornness to not acknowledge an insult, dig in deep, and refusal to see that change is not only needed, it is necessary – is amazing to me. If you read the book of Joshua, there were Kings and Nations in the Promised Land that fell because of their stubbornness and hard hearts. It only shows your true character. It proves cowardliness. It takes a brave person to stand and make change. It takes a person of character to protect those who cannot do it for themselves.
Going forward, I will not be keeping track. I do not want anyone to feel the need to tiptoe or walk on eggshells around my family or me. The word retarded means to stop growth and therefore it has meaning in correct situations. Those situations will arise in our daily lives. However if you use that word around me as slang, to insult, to demean, to belittle, to devalue, then I won’t be around you for long and I will avoid you. Then again – maybe that is exactly what you want J