Letter: ‘Retarded’ isn’t funny
Eagle, CO Colorado
Using the term “retarded” to make fun of people, well, just isn’t funny. Unfortunately, that is just the kind of thing the Vail Daily allows on its online Web comments. There is a comment currently online that refers to some people in our community as “retarded.” I e-mailed the Daily staff and let them know this is offensive, and asked them to delete it. I was told they only remove comments that are “libelous and/or racist, or use foul language.” Apparently making fun of people with disabilities is OK. That’s sad.
I have a son with Down Syndrome. This is a small community, so maybe you’ve seen Ben around town. He’s a great kid working harder than most to live a great life. To help explain why the word “retarded” is extremely offensive to Ben and our family, I’ll borrow from a recent letter written by Sarah Schleider, the Vice President of Marketing and Communication for the National Down Syndrome Society:
She says that the word “is very offensive and degrades individuals with Down syndrome. The word “retarded” is commonly used as an insult or for comedic purposes in everyday life and in the media, especially among teens and young adults. Using the word “retarded” to mean stupid discounts the incredible achievements of these individuals and their daily struggle to be accepted. ‘Mental retardation’ is a clinical diagnosis used by health professionals, however, advocacy groups prefer the term “intellectual disability” to avoid perceived negative connotations that are often perpetuated in the media. More than 350,000 people in the United States have Down Syndrome, which is caused by a third copy of chromosome 21. Individuals with Down Syndrome and other intellectual disabilities work very hard – harder than most people – to learn how to read, write, play musical instruments, participate in sports, live independently, and become valuable members of their communities. They deserve to be respected and celebrated for their success and achievements, and not to have their clinical diagnosis used as a punch-line.
More often than not, these individuals are underestimated their whole lives by people who focus on their disability, rather than their abilities. When people with Down Syndrome are referenced in this way, it sustains and perpetuates low expectations and negative stereotypes, and further impedes the acceptance of people with disabilities in schools, the workplace, and the community. Negative and inaccurate public perceptions are the greatest barriers faced in achieving acceptance and inclusion of people with Down Syndrome.”
Some may call this political correctness. It’s not. It’s simply not making fun of someone at someone else’s expense. Ben didn’t ask to have Down Syndrome. In fact, he’s just now realizing that he may be different from his peers and has a tough road ahead. So instead of perpetuating mean-spirited stereotypes, give people like Ben a break. You may not be willing to accept them, but please don’t make it more difficult.