Barhite: ‘R’ word has no place in polite societyWritten by Brandi Barhite | Associate Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
The use of the “R” word is getting attention because political pundit Ann Coulter called President Barack Obama a “retard” in a post-debate Twitter comment.
The next day she tweeted, “If he’s ‘the smartest guy in the room’ it must be one retarded room.”
But the true outrage is that this happens much more than is ever reported, said Carolyn Miller, a local advocate for people with developmental disabilities.
“This is always an issue,” she said. “It is a word that we hope the community will eventually stop using.”
“As our knowledge of disabilities has changed, we have modified how we speak about people with disabilities,” she said. “It used to be standard, but as far as we have come in the last century, there is no reason to refer to people using words that are as archaic as that.”
Miller said finding the right word is as simple as remembering that people aren’t defined by conditions.
“We refer to them as ‘people with developmental disabilities’ — the person should come first,” she said. “They have so many gifts to offer to society. They really aren’t so different than you or me. They love a good laugh and they have so much talent to share, just like everyone else.”
Miller, 24, was a teenager when her brother Jacob was born.
“I have a little brother with Down syndrome,” she said. “He has made such a difference in my life. He is such a good egg. To think anyone would refer to him in a way that was cruel or disrespectful, it just isn’t appropriate.”
When Coulter tweeted that she approved of “Romney’s decision to be kind and gentle to the retard,” it inspired a Special Olympics athlete from Virginia to write her a heartfelt letter.
“Well, Ms. Coulter, you, and society, need to learn that being compared to people like me should be considered a badge of honor. No one overcomes more than we do and still loves life so much,” John Franklin Stephens said.
Miller is hopeful.
“I think for people with disabilities this is a new era for them. They are coming into a time where they will gain acceptance.”
Email questions or comments to Toledo Free Press Community Ombudsman Brandi Barhite at bbarhite@toledofree press.com.