Let’s get something straight right off the bat. My daughter, my AMAZING, BEAUTIFUL, SMART daughter, has Down syndrome. If you did not know that before, you do now. If you have followed me, you know her story. If not, the short version is that we had NO idea that she had Down syndrome until she was one week shy of turning 1. Neither did her doctors. She has no health concerns and we are very fortunate in that aspect. You can read her full story here.
I am very PROUD of her. And I will FIGHT for her. And I will fight for people to STOP using the ‘R’ word. I don’t get offended or mad that people say it. I’m not dumb. I know this word is in people’s vernacular. I only ask that you THINK about what you are saying. THINK about what that means. Depending on the situation, I will say something. I won’t attack you, but rather try to educate you on what that word really means and how it is offensive and hurtful. Would you use that word in front of my daughter? Is there ever really a good time to use it? NO. There may not be anyone around at the time that you wouldn’t necessarily say it in front of, but there are always people around that may be offended. Someone they may love could have a disability. Please remember that.
Recently, we’ve had to talk to a few family members about this. It makes me sad that we even have to point this out to people that are so closely related to Leilani. But I’d rather get it out of the way now before she even understands what it means. I won’t always be able to protect her from this word and the hurt it will eventually cause, but I will try my hardest! What makes me sad is that people don’t understand that saying it, repeating it when someone else said it or just flat out sharing a meme with the word on it is a problem. What’s even MORE of a problem is when you try to educate those people and they STILL do it and say things like ‘that’s not what I meant’, ‘well I wasn’t the one that said it’ or ‘I just liked the picture in the meme’. IF YOU DON’T SEE THE PROBLEM, you are part of the problem.
I read an amazing article written by a dad of a child with Down syndrome, one that I’ve shared on my page and on my personal page and even with co-workers. I couldn’t explain this any better than he does, so I’m going to quote him.
I hear these things like RETARD, thrown around, even at work. When I hear that word, I also hear this, “oh, I didn’t mean it like that.” So let me tell you, the reader who does use that word, in your vernacular, you do mean it like that. When you use RETARD in a sentence to describe someone acting silly, foolish, spastic, dumb, ignorant or any other action deemed to lack intelligence, you really mean this “quit acting like a person with special needs, whose dumb, stupid, or needs assistance.” That is what you mean, please finish the sentence the next time you say it, “quit acting RETARDED like a person with Down syndrome, or cerebal palsy, or autism…..” I dare you. You won’t because it doesn’t fit in with your greater sense of self. You might not be comfortable with this, but your words carry hatred and discrimination. – Mark Raff Read the full article
If we have talked to you about this and tried to educate you and yet you STILL decide to use this word and/or don’t see a problem with it…don’t be offended when we distance ourselves and our family. Just like you protect your family and friends, we will do the same…tenfold. I won’t feel bad for standing up for what is right. And I won’t apologize for it either.
If you take the time to meet my daughter and get to know her, you would fall in love with her. She is very easy to love. She has a huge heart and a smile that can light up a room. And don’t get me started on her laugh. That girl can brighten even the darkest of days with just one giggle. She will talk to you, and dance with you and definitely make an impression on you. You need a good hug? She’ll give you one, or ten. And she will always make you smile. Think about that little face every time that word pops into your head, before it escapes your lips.
Open your eyes people. And maybe your hearts too. And please help me spread the word to end the word! With your help, we CAN make a difference.