Opinion: Slow doesn’t mean stupid


Bryn Gallagher

bgo1It can be heard ringing out across every school and workplace and is probably one of the most commonly misused words in America: retarded. Everyone from elementary school students to politicians and celebrities misinterpret its meaning.

Mental retardation can be caused by several genetic problems; one of these is Down Syndrome, where there are three sets of the twenty-first chromosome. This can cause a shorter stature, lower muscle tone, and varying degrees of mental retardation.

People with Down Syndrome are not stupid. They may not learn as fast or as much as those who are not mentally handicapped but that is just it, they are disabled, not stupid. People who have Down Syndrome or other forms of retardation have to overcome huge obstacles to accomplish what comes easily to us but they are able to accomplish them through their hard work.

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel used the term “f— retarded” in a private meeting in August, and Obama himself has said that he “bowled like he was in the Special Olympics.” Politicians are not alone, celebrities also use the word retarded incorrectly. Jennifer Aniston said that she “played dress up like a retard” on the Regis and Kelly show last month. These people, who influence so many, even think that retarded means stupid, but it does not.

Take Blair Williamson for example, a 31 year old man with Down Syndrome. He is incredibly creative and, for all he goes up against, smart. He has taken countless beautiful photos of those around him that look as if they were taken by a professional photographer. Williamson even takes his photos and organizes them into amazing slide shows entirely by himself.

He is also part of a mentally handicapped acting group and he, along with his fellow actors, have had roles in various shows including CSI, Scrubs, Nip Tuck, and Glee.

If they were stupid, would they be able to act? Would Williamson be able to take such artistic photos?

Each of the kids in that acting group, the Born to Act Players, have their own distinct personalities, ideas, and dreams. They all aspire to “make it big” in some way or another and some even wish to change the world.

Yes, those who are mentally retarded are slow, but they are also wonderful people who have feelings and dreams just like you. It is an insult to the Down Syndrome community to use retarded as a synonym for stupid. Kids and adults with Down syndrome have to work twice as hard as we do but they do not give up and should be recognized, not ridiculed, for it.

What do you think?