If you've never heard a teenager use the word "retarded," I'm sorry to say you're in a special sort of club. It's a club that lives in a sort of fantasy world, where kids are always polite and politically correct, and always, always, always think of someone's feelings before opening their trap. It's a club SO rare that Glee stars Jane Lynch and Lauren Potter have stepped in to remind everyone on the outside that the word "retard" is never kind.
In a special "R-word" PSA that popped up in the middle of the Glee finale, it was fans' only chance to see curmudgeonly coach Sue Sylvester and her sidekick, Becky, the cheerleader with Down syndrome. That alone earned the "Spread the Word to End the Word" campaign plenty of attention. Well, that, and the use of words like "nigger," "spic," and "kike."
They're all words your kids have probably been trained not to say. My own daughter has never heard them -- at least not in any circles that we travel in, and hopefully not in school.
But parents, listening to Potter, who plays the teenaged Becky on the show, telling your kids that "it's not acceptable to call me a retard or call yourself or your friends retarded," she wasn't just talking to our kids. She was talking straight to us. When's the last time you sat your kids down to tell them not to use that word?
Have you ever had a direct conversation about it? I'll admit I haven't. It's a word we don't use, but she spends time with teenagers. Good, kind, smart teenagers. And I'm willing to bet they've used the word ... probably in front of her. Because it's rarely been put in the same context as the ethnic slurs we raise our kids from day one not to use. Is it any wonder that nearly 85 percent of children and youth with disabilities experience bullying? We don't tell them NOT to. That's on us, Mom and Dad. That we can't join that "club" is not their fault but ours.
That it was Glee reminding us of our failings is appropriate. It's a show that's put a gay teen, a teen in a wheelchair, a teen with Down syndrome, and bullying into our living rooms Tuesday after Tuesday. The pop music makes it fun, but underneath the writers are begging us to sit up, pay attention, and USE what they're giving us to help our kids navigate the tricky paths through high school. We can start by sharing this video with them:
Will you have your kids take the pledge to end the R-word? Will you take it?
Image via YouTube