A week ago THIS was published in the Daily Illini (University of IL paper). It was a well written, thoughtful Letter to the Editor from the Special Education Graduate Student Association (SEGSA) and Department of Special Education, College of Education in regards to an offensive banner which was hung from a Campustown apartment that read "Bloomington, IL: Champaign's retarded cousin."
Thousands have read that LTE. Now people are aware of the hurtful nature of the "R" word. Now people will be more careful and chose more wisely the words that they use. Now we can move on. Right?
Not so. Dear readers, take a moment to read the comments to the LTE. If you don't want to, I understand. I know it hurts to read such pointless cruelty. So, to summarize, there are numerous responses in support, not just of the banner itself, but of the use of the "R" word. Those of us who ASK that people CHOSE different language are called bleeding hearts and the PC police. We are reminded that the world is not a nice place, to grow up, to walk away, to take a class in American constitutional history. The 1st Amendment is thrown around like a football in defense of this intolerant language. In fact, the backlash of the original LTE may be worse than the banner which started this.
Today THIS beautiful article in the Daily Illini was written from the perspective of a woman who has a little sister with Down syndrome in response to those comments. Please take a minute or two to read it. Though there are sure to be more negative comments, I have been pleased to read some very well argued and articulate points being made.
In my experience there are those who are simply unaware of the hurtful nature of the word. Through education and love we have won many over. Some are in the middle, not caring either way. They too can be reached and this is why we keep going. It's sad to come to grips with, but there are always going to be MANY who defend the use of the word who come up with the most disgusting responses. We may not be able to reach them, but we cannot sit idly by while our loved ones are abused. I hope my skin never gets so thick that I'm no longer offended because that will mean I have grown complacent.
Keep in mind, the whole idea behind the campaign to end the "R" word is a movement of acceptance and inclusion. It is a movement about respect. It is a movement that does not wish to remove a word from the dictionary or violate anyone's right to free speech. Instead, it is about educating the world around us and then asking people to make a conscious choice not to use it. In this way a new word with the same derogatory meaning won't spring up in it's place and the world will be made more safe for Sophie, for Dom, for Jeffrey, for Sarah, for all our friends and their loved ones.
This is Down syndrome Awareness month. Won't you help by spreading the word?
Here's another one of my favorite PSA's