***Warning – The R-word is mentioned throughout this post. Readers discretion is advised.***
Do any of you know who Ann Coulter is? Until this week I had never heard of her. She is a political commentator… among many other things. She is making big headlines this week because of her Twitter posts that have outraged a lot of people including many parents of children with intellectual disabilities, like me. She has not once, not twice, but three times used the R-word as an insult towards the President of the United States.
The first tweet was about a video the president made for the National Forum on Disability issues. Here is the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DG3RPdkjnFE. Here is Ann’s tweet: "Been busy, but is Obama STILL talking about that video? I had no idea how crucial the retarded vote is in this election."
Then after the presidential debate this week she tweeted: "I highly approve of Romney's decision to be kind and gentle to the retard." http://www.cnn.com/2012/10/23/living/ann-coulter-obama-tweet/index.html
Then she went on: "Obama: "Stage 3 Romneysia" - because cancer references are HILARIOUS. If he's "the smartest guy in the room" it must be one retarded room." http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/23/ann-coulter-obama-retard_n_2004828.html?utm_hp_ref=media
How does this make me feel?
And believe it or not, Thankful! This evil woman brought attention to a huge issue that plagues our vocabulary, without even realizing the impact. The R-word is a derogatory word. Sure, perhaps her followers may have thought her comments were funny and/or think that it is OK to use the R-word, but not without hearing from the people that the R-word hurts…prompting more people to take a stand against using the R-word. The media is blowing up over this, which only continues to raise awareness to end use of the word. These articles will get posted millions of times on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and emailed all around. Because of that, I am thankful. Check out this amazing letter to Ann from John Franklin Stevens who is a Special Olympics athlete and global messenger: http://specialolympicsblog.wordpress.com/2012/10/23/an-open-letter-to-ann-coulter/
A few weeks ago I had an email conversation with someone over their use of the R-word that was sent out in an extremely large email chain. The person was upset that I didn't come to them directly instead of replying to all, but someone followed up her email backing her use of the word so I felt I needed to reach out to everyone on the email chain. The conversation between us hasn't been long forgotten by any means, but this media coverage was like pouring Jack right into the wound. When the incident happened, I talked myself out of blogging about it. At the time I thought I made my point and that was good enough, but it still plagued me because I was keeping this from those who follow my blogs. I am the quiet one, who doesn't like confrontation. I have been sitting on this for weeks, debating with myself whether or not to share this experience because several of the people who were in the email chain are Facebook friends and that is the source I share my blog from. After reading all of these articles on Ann Coulter I decided I need to get it out there instead of it hanging over my head.
This was my reply to all email after someone used the R-word: “I find the R-word very offensive and would love it if my familia would discontinue the use of it. My son, Jackson, has a mental impairment called Fragile X syndrome and when you use the R-word you hurt me and my family very much. You wouldn't call my son a RETARD to his face, but when you use the word you not only hurt my family, but others who have a mental impairment. There are so many other words you can use... so I challenge all of you to take the pledge today to end your use of the R-Word. It only takes a few seconds... http://www.r-word.org/”
I received a lot of responses from other people on that chain supporting me and apologizing. It provided me some comfort which I needed because of how the way the rest of the day went. The emails I received directly from the person who used the word never apologized; at least I didn't feel that she did. Her responses to me were in all caps and were full of nothing but excuses for why she used the word. She called my sons disability an “ORDEAL” and claimed that it wasn't a personal attack against my son. She went on to explain to me that she has worked in the field for 23 years and knows and understands these impairments. That we all have impairments in one way or another and after being in the field for so long, she chooses to laugh rather than cry about the inadequacies of her friends. That is her business and if I have a problem with that she said to feel free to come at her on a personal level seeing that I took it personal.
So I responded this to just her:
“Fragile X syndrome is a genetic syndrome that is the most common cause of autism and, for lack of a better term, the inherited cause of mental retardation/impairment. Yeah my son has special needs, but I don't see it as an ordeal. I took it personal and because I live with it every day and I will continue to take it personal until my last breath. Once you used the R-word, then others quickly followed which made it look OK to use. I am glad that you are able to laugh rather than cry about, but I choose not to. Just because you work in the field doesn't give you the right to use it and when you do it tells others it is OK.
The R-word is a derogatory word and it hurts me to hear it, sure that is on me. You and I have talked about this before, however I was really intoxicated so I don't know if I made my point on how it makes me feel, but I know you saw me cry about it. When I hear or see people use the word I try to seize the opportunity to teach and advocate about the use of the word and how it affects me. If you continue to use the R-word in everyday language, that's on you. And you know it hurts those around you, especially this kid who loves and looks up to you. In the beginning after getting my son's diagnosis it was hard for me to remove the R-word from my vocabulary, I am not a perfect person by any means. I saw an opportunity to speak up about how the word affects me as a parent of a son who has a mental impairment. I know I may not be able to remove the word from my daily life, but if I can reach one person then it is worth every breath.”
The response I got in return was again in all caps, but again it didn't feel like any sort of apology. She again says it was not directed towards me and feels that there are other words that should be removed, even listed them. She said she respects my opinions and feelings, and I can choose to respect her or dislike them as I wish. She again states it was not directed towards me or my family, but if I like I can choose to use her comment as a grand stage for my cause because she doesn't mind because she knows who she is and what she stands for such as myself. And she loves the people she works for.
I think what makes it worse is that she works with people who have intellectual disabilities for a living. Years ago I remember hearing her standing up and putting people in their place for using the R-word. What happened to that? I felt defeated after our emails back and forth, but not to the point I would start using the R-word in everyday language. Perhaps she feels defeated after all the years of standing up for those who she works for, but it gives her no right to use the word. I have run into this individual once since this email conversation and neither one of us spoke to one or other. She might read this blog and be irate that I wrote this. However she did tell me that if I wanted to use her comment as my grand stage then she doesn't mind. I read another blog that encouraged me to write this up: http://www.allparenting.com/my-family/articles/965679/child-with-down-syndrome-using-word-retarded
I will continue to ask people to stop using the R-word when I hear or see it and challenge the user to take the pledge to spread the word to end the word. http://www.r-word.org