While most of my posts this month are positive, feel good topics and conversations, I have to admit that not all of them will be. We have had a bumpy road to get where we are. Some days are easy, some days not. Honestly though, to me, all parenting is like that. No one wants to see their child in pain, struggling, or unhappy. In order to talk about Down syndrome awareness, I must broach the subject of the r-word. It is not a happy topic. My fellow blogging mommy, Shannon, said it best here.
We all know that racial and religious slurs are very much a part of history. Everyone of us grew up hearing one or another. I am a product of the 90's. The r-word is what we said when we thought something was dumb, lame or stupid. I am embarrassed that I used it. I wish someone would have called me out on it. An online medical dictionary defines Down syndrome as: the most common cause of mental retardation and malformation in a newborn. Wikipedia defines it as: a chromosomal condition caused by the presence of all or part of a third copy of chromosome 21. Down syndrome is the most common chromosome abnormality in humans. It is typically associated with a delay in cognitive ability (mental retardation, or MR) and physical growth, and a particular set of facial characteristics. Do you see the common theme? Mental retardation. When people use the r-word in every day slang, it changes the word. It is now not medical terminology used to describe an individual with intellectual disabilities. It is a derogatory word that in essence mocks those individuals affected with disabilities.
Over time, it has become socially unacceptable to use racial and religious slurs. There is a big movement in Hollywood now for people to stop using the word "gay" as slang. So why doesn't Hollywood blink an eye when using the r-word or Downsy in their films?
Do I think every person that uses the r-word is purposely mocking or making fun of my daughter? No. I don't think most people are using the word in malice, but as a parent of a child with Down syndrome, can't you please find a different word to use? Please stand up and help us end the use of this word. For my daughter...for the other 400,000 individuals with Down syndrome.
The next time you hear the r-word or get ready to use it...think of this beautiful little girl. Would you or could you say it to her face? Please have more respect for my daughter!