Although I don’t recall the date, I will never forget the time or place. I will always remember the use of the word “retarded”. That the use of this word was used by someone I know, in front of me and my friend whose daughter had Down syndrome.
The word was used as if it was part of regular-day vocabulary. It was used by an adult who should know better. A person who KNEW that this friend had a child with Downs. Watching her flinch when the word was said hurt my heart.
Before this incident, I had never made an issue with using this word. I heard it frequently, used by kids and teenagers. Perhaps they didn’t realize the connotations behind the use of the word. I didn’t like that they used the word, however, I just couldn’t take on board the process of enlightening everyone.
For the first time ever, I spoke up. “Hey, come on. Don’t use that word, it isn’t appropriate”.
Time froze and everyone went silent.
I felt pretty sick. I was by nature not bold enough to confront people.
Later on, when my friend and I were leaving I saw that person huddled with a group of others looking at us. When they saw us, they all put their heads down and looked uncomfortable. I knew they were talking about us. I heard snarky laughing and the hiss of a word.
My friend dissolved in the car. A vindictive woman who should have known better spoiled our day.
I wish I could say that something magical happened and she moved or saw the light and repented.
But life doesn’t work that way. We still saw her. She would never look my way. All because I spoke out.
What did happen is that I started to get braver about speaking out. Which was a good thing, because soon a little girl would join our family and require me to become an even bigger advocate than I would ever have imagined.