My brother is developmentally challenged. Growing up, and now, he’s always just been my brother. Yes, of course, I recognize that he has certain limitations. He doesn’t do things as quickly as most of us and sometimes he needs extra help and guidance with every day tasks. But the proficiency he lacks in some areas, are made up for in spades in others.
He is one of the most thoughtful, kind and brave individuals I know. He realizes his limitations, but never uses them as an excuse to not try or believe he can’t do something. When he is unsure, he asks for help — something many of us, for pride’s sake, don’t do. That is self-awareness. That is bravery. That is intelligence.
So it really pisses me off when people use the word “retard” in a derogatory way. The origin of the word is not rooted in offense. It simply means “slow”. However, like many words associated with minority groups, it has come to be derogatory and offensive. It has become a word that people use to insult others…to insinuate that they are like my brother – and not in a good way. This is why there has been a concerted effort and campaign to eliminate the mean-spirited use of this word.
Political commentator, Ann Coulter, sent out this tweet last night during the Presidential debate:
She was referring to President Obama when she used the “r-word”. Immediately, Coulter was called out for her malfeasance. But no scolding was as classy and well put than that of John Franklin Stephens, Special Olympics athlete and global messenger. He stated:
I’m a 30 year old man with Down syndrome who has struggled with the public’s perception that an intellectual disability means that I am dumb and shallow. I am not either of those things, but I do process information more slowly than the rest of you. In fact it has taken me all day to figure out how to respond to your use of the R-word last night.
It took him all day to figure out what to say, but he didn’t give up. Stephens went on to say:
After I saw your tweet, I realized you just wanted to belittle the President by linking him to people like me….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.
It’s true. I wish there were more people with hearts like John, and my brother. People who would never dream of putting others down in order to get ahead socially, financially or politically. People who love life, value others and look at the world with hope and gratitude. So many of us have the disability to do so.
Read the entire letter from John Franklin Stephens to Ann Coulter here.