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Published October 14, 2013, 10:00 PM

Parenting Perspectives: Take pledge to stop using R-word

I’m not saying it breaks me. I’m not saying I hate the person. I’m certainly not giving the individual power over my happiness. But I am asking you to consider not using the R-word.

By: Kerri Kava, INFORUM

I’m not saying it breaks me. I’m not saying I hate the person. I’m certainly not giving the individual power over my happiness.

But I am asking you to consider not using the R-word.

Sometimes asking a person to stop using the word “retard” makes even the most proper professional squirm. Even some who advocate for diversity, same sex marriage and equal rights will rationalize its use.

“I don’t mean it like that though when I say it.”

“I’m not thinking of your child when I say it.”

“I don’t think of your child like that.”

“That’s a very widely used word.”

“I love those people.”

These are all lines I’ve heard when bringing it up to real people here in North Dakota and Minnesota.

If you use the R-word, it doesn’t make you a bad person. But it does make you seem uncaring and uncompassionate.

“Retarded” isn’t an adjective; it’s a medical diagnosis that affects a lot of families. It affects people you may not even realize are affected. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the word when the person I’m talking to would never intentionally want to be rude. They just grew up saying it. They don’t dislike individuals who are mentally handicapped; they don’t think about it.

But it’s not that hard to stop saying it. It’s simply a habit: Think before you speak.

For families in silence, it’s easy not to say something. It’s easy to walk away and let the frustration fester. It’s easy to pretend like you don’t care just to avoid a difficult conversation.

I’m not writing this for me. I don’t enjoy tackling a subject that makes people squirm. But that’s my job. I’m a mom to a special little boy. For me, being a mom to Carter means being up for the challenge of advocating. It means caring enough to inform others and being strong enough to speak up and let others know, “That’s not acceptable.” It means spreading awareness and opening your ears to what’s being said around you – in your school, church and maybe your backseat. It means saying something even when you don’t want to.

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit this word hurts. Words hurt, but they don’t determine my path in life or even my outlook. They encourage me to speak up.

For all who disagree – if you choose to advocate for your First Amendment right to speak with whatever words you want – you have that right. But it certainly doesn’t make it right. And don’t say you didn’t know it was inconsiderate or hurtful.

I’m here telling you now. It’s unkind, unprofessional and uncalled for.

Will you pledge to stop? Go to www.r-word.org to take the pledge.

Kerri Kava is mom to 6-year-old son Carter, who lives with Williams’ Syndrome. She can be reached at kerrikava18@gmail.com

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