Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Happy World Down Syndrome Day!

Today is March 21, designated World Down Syndrome Day.  Why?  Down Syndrome is the name of trisomy (3 copies) of chromosome #21.  So if the date is 3-21, well... Kinda like last week 3-14 was pi day.

People in the Down Syndrome community are often upset when people use the word "retard" or "retarded" colloquially, going so far as to refer to it as the "r-word", in order to make it as taboo as the "n-word", and for the same reason.  There is a whole campaign to "Spread the Word to End the Word".   And many people say in their defense that they don't mean THAT, they just mean that something is stupid.  And anyway, how is it that we can talk about being blind to the facts, or something falling on deaf ears, but calling something retarded is not ok?

I had this talk with one of my daughters a few weeks ago.  I had mentioned this issue to her earlier, and apparently she pointed it out to her classmates when she heard them using it (I am soooo proud of her!), but couldn't really answer why it was not ok to use it if you are not actually referring to people with intellectual disabilities.

I thought about this a lot, and I think that the best parallel is how teenagers were frequently using the word "gay" in a disparaging context a few years ago.  They still do it, but I sense that it is much less acceptable.   The parallel I see is that rather than using the word metaphorically (c.f. "falling on deaf ears"), people were using it as a simple insult.  Using a descriptor of a group of people as an insult is offensive.

Lisa Eicher posted eloquently about this last year, with this followup.  But you might prefer to watch her adorable kids, as her daughter interviews her adopted brother with Down syndrome.  Or just watch this:

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