Thursday, February 4, 2010

Rahm Emanuel and the "R-Word"

This morning, the Today Show reported that last fall, Rahm Emanuel (White House Chief of Staff) used the term "f*cking retards" in a rage during an argument among Democrats. As a result, Emanuel is meeting with Tim Shriver, chairman of Special Olympics who I hope kicks his ass (wishful thinking). Do I think what he did is wrong? Absolutely. Do I think he'll do it again? Absolutely.

The sad truth is that our society has made the "r-word" common place in every day language. We -- parents, educators, and all those who care about someone with a cognitive disability -- are standing against the use of this word -- "mental retardation" is being phased out as a medical term, replaced with cognitive disability or intellectual disability. I correct people who use the "r-word" all the time, and honestly, I usually have someone thank me for pointing it out. The word is thrown around so mindlessly that they don't even realize they're using it or that it could possibly be hurtful or offensive. I feel I'm changing the person at a time.

But, I digress...when Andrea Mitchell of the Today Show reported the news, she mentioned that Sarah Palin had called for Emanuel's dismissal (a little overboard, I think), but in talking about Palin, Andrea mentioned her "Down syndrome baby" and that's what really got me going so I wrote the email below to the Today Show. I'll let you know if I ever hear back. At least I said my peace. Changing the news show at a time :)

I am and have been an avid viewer of the Today Show for many years and I caught this story this morning. I wanted to inform your writers about the importance of using "people first language" -- you don't call someone a "Down syndrome baby" but instead a "baby with Down syndrome." It's about putting the person first because the disability shouldn't define the person, ever.

Here's what the Special Olympics has to say about people first language:

While you're at it, please strike the use of "victim" or "suffers from" or "is afflicted with" when referring to people with disabilities -- they're just living their lives, just like you and me.

As the mother of a child with Down syndrome, I find it hurtful and offense, and wish a national program with millions of viewers would get things straight, as you're setting an example for everyone listening.

I'm off my soap box.


Ani said...

Good for you...

melissa paul said...

Sandy, you truly are my hero. RIGHT ON!