A Timely Topic - Stewart Home & School

A Timely Topic

The following essay was written by our Mayor Alisa’s brother James, as part of a university application. We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

Topic B: Choose an issue of importance to you—the issue could be personal, school related, local, political, or international in scope—and write an essay in which you explain the significance of that issue to yourself, your family, your community, or your generation.

“You’re so retarded man!” “Wow man stop acting like such a retard!” Whether it is used as an insult or used as a joke many people in our society use the word “Retard” so loosely that they fail to see the hurt and pain the word causes. In my personal opinion the word “Retard” is just as hurtful and bad as the worst racial slurs. Racial slurs or any form of discrimination are looked down upon in society because they degrade certain groups. But what people fail to realize is that there is a group in society that is hurt by the use of the word “Retarded”. The people of this group are the mentally disabled. To call these people out and use their condition as an insult or joke is just as bad as a racial slur, because like skin color, gender or age, they had no choice in their condition.

When I was born I was blessed with one of the most loving aunts I could have possibly imagined. My mother’s sister was one of the happiest, kindest, funniest and loving people I have had the pleasure of knowing. I could go on and on about the attributes that made her a great human being but then I would
run out of space on this essay. Let us just say that if more people on this planet had the heart of my aunt, there would be a lot less chaos. But if I told somebody this description of my aunt they would most likely never guess that my aunt was born with Down’s Syndrome.

Growing up I was taught not to use the R-word as it was disrespectful and a bad word. So as I grew up I became confused as to why kids were using it so much, why it was on TV and why even adults and my teachers said it. What I came to realize was that none of these people had the pleasure of befriending a
mentally disabled person or even talking to one. It seems like in America or other places, we do not use racial slurs because we fear the consequences of the other race hearing our words. But because the mentally disabled are not as visible in society, people seem to feel that they can use words that are
degrading to the mentally disabled for there are not any mentally disabled persons around to get hurt by their words. I feel no matter what the situation, this word should not be used. Whether their presence is around or not should not matter, what matters is respect should be shown at all times.

Not too long ago my aunt passed away due to medical reasons that are usually associated with a person with Down’s Syndrome. But I know she had lived life with an attitude and spirit far better than most and now she is with God in Heaven. Now when I hear the word “Retarded” used as an insult or joke I take
that even more personally than I did before. I feel like every time someone uses that word it is like a blow to my aunt’s name and legacy. I now feel more comfortable confronting people and telling them why that word should not be used as they are using it.

What puzzles me the most about the word “Retarded” is why people even use it as an insult. Sure the mentally handicapped may not function as well as others in certain aspects. But what they lose in some areas they have a whole lot more in other areas. When I would visit my aunt’s group home all I would see were great people with hearts more pure than most society claims as normal. I did not see their disabilities for their personalities covered them up. Of course you can tell almost right away who is mentally disabled by sight but you can also tell by sight who is black, white, Latin, Asian, male, female, young and old. The point is to accept people for who they are and not judge them by something they
cannot change.