Retards and the Chinese

I thought I would break from the stale business stuff for a while today and share with you a recent angry mail I received. 

Dear Evil Genius,

He's special


I have been following your blog for a while, but I would like to let you know that I will not be coming back to your site, and will be telling everyone I know not to visit. I thought you would like to know why. 

I am deeply offended by your casual use of the word “retarded” in your postings, especially in your video segments.  As the mother of a mentally-challenged child, you have no idea how words of hate, even spoken in jest, can make someone feel.  My son has enough challenges facing him in his life.  He does not need bigoted people like you making fun of his disabilities. 

Susan (name changed) 

So to Susan, and all the other people I may have offended.  Eat me. 

Here is my reasoning: 

I’m not going to go into the argument that it was just a fun word to say and holds no offense.  I also call things “gay” all the time. It might mean something sucked, was lame, was unexpected, or just weird. Yet, I have absolutely zero issues with someone being gay.  I am all for gay marriage, I picket for their equal rights beside them (but never in front of them…lol), and probably most telling, I have no issue with something thinking I am gay myself – and it has happened more than once.  I’ll admit it. I have a man-crush on Christian Bale.  I don’t want to kiss him, but I am compelled to see everything he is in. Weird. But I’m ok with that. 

So why am I telling Susan to take a flying leap? 

Because I offended HER and not her Son…the one who actually IS retarded. She is taking offense FOR someone else. Do we really need that?  I would never say her son is a retard. But I would say she is. And here’s why: 

If I said something derogatory towards fat people, I would be offending you directly. If I ripped on old cat-loving shut-ins, I would be offending you directly. If I called out all the HSN-addict, Beanie Baby Memorabilia collecting misfits, that would be speaking to you directly. With that in mind: 

Would your son be offended if I said those things to you? No.

Is your son offended because I said something was retarded? No.  

The point I am getting at is that your son is not offended. You are.  You think he should be protected because he has a medical “detriment.” But he does not care, so who are you really protecting? 

Let me expand my point of view with a story from my childhood: 

When I was in elementary school and middle school, I volunteered for a program that paired up “regular” students with “special needs” students.  My partner and eventual friend was David. He was few years older than me and was pretty severely mentally disabled.  This was long before parents began thinking about the cranial safety of their child, capable or otherwise, but if it was today, he would have defiantly been wearing a helmet most of the time. 

I spent part of 2 days a week with David over the course of a few years. At first, it was only during our school sessions, but over time, we began to hang out more and more outside of school.  As you can imagine, school kids at their worst, I heard David called every possible name in the book. It truly bothered me that people could be so cruel. 

After all these years, I think what really bothered me was the fact that people saw ME as being associated with a retard.  David didn’t get what they were saying. Didn’t care. And would lever lose a moments happiness because of it.  I did. 

Over time, I had the chance to have dinner at his house a few times. He was the youngest of 3, with a “regular” brother and sister.  What shocked me was that nobody in his household treated him as anything other than a typical child.  He had his chores to do, got love and praise when he did good, and scolded when he did bad. The kid who everybody at school (and myself) saw as retarded, was just another pain-in-the-ass kid when he was at home.  That experience changed how I looked at David. 

Now to the important part. 

Seeing his bedroom at home for the first time also made me see him in an entirely new light.  What I found out was that he was an AMAZING artist.  Not good for a “special” kid – exceptional for anyone.  I had never seen his work at school because 1. He didn’t have time to do it and 2. He had no innate need to show off like the rest of us do.    I can only guess that in his mind, his drawings made him happy, so what was the point in showing them to other people? 

On his walls, on his floor, and in piles on his desk were hundreds if not thousands of drawings of dragons, cartoon characters, the buildings and hallways at school, and people he interacted with on a daily basis…including me.  And I’m not talking quick sketches, but painstakingly drawn details down to the exact number of books on a shelf in the library. 

From that day on, he just became my friend David. The kids at school were still as bad as ever about the name calling (this is also around the time that I began to become the fatty I am today) but it never really affected me the way it did. I realized that David truly didn’t care, and I no longer cared if kids saw me as associated with “the retard”, because in so many ways he was more exceptional than they would ever be. 

That’s the same exact reason I have no problem going to a gay club (with or without my wife) or telling inappropriate jokes when I am with black or (god forbid) Jewish friends (..and yes most of them are lawyers or dentists).  I’ve accepted them as my equal, so I could care less if you think less of me for their company or brand me as one of “them” for keeping it. 

So in closing,

I am pretty sure that no retarded people are reading this blog.  I can’t confirm that directly, but I’m pretty sure most would rather be naming their eleven toes than reading what I have to say about marketing…Just kidding, my guess is that they are doing something amazing right under your nose that you are not even aware of.  I’m not a religious guy, but I do believe that for everything God (or Allah, or Vishnu, or Buddah, or whatever) takes away, he gives back in some way. 

If I have offended you, I am sorry to do that to you, but I stand by my statement. Eat Me.  Your son does not need your pity. He does not need you to feel sorry for him. And he most certainly does need you to feel offended for him.  After all, he’s not offended himself. 

Treat him like a regular kid. Encourage what makes him happy and protect him from what makes him sad…which I can guarantee are NOT the same things that make you sad. 

If you choose not to visit the blog again, that’s your call.  But if your son ever wants to come by and visit, he is welcome with open arms. Even if he’s a retard. 

So that’s how I feel. I’d love to hear what others have to think.  I promise I’ll add your comment even if you vehemently disagree with me and think I’m a prick 🙂 

PS: Saw this video the other day and thought of David again.  Hope he’s well.  I haven’t been home in a looong time. Maybe I’ll look him up next time I’m in town. 

Stephen Wiltshire. Amazing.

PS II: Just to make the title make sense, I am bothered by the Chinese. Not all of them, but certainly the ones who lived in Grad Village with me at the University of Rhode Island when I was getting my MBA. I’ll explain sometime. 

PS III: The gaming division of my company created a game a while back called “Who Rode the Short Bus”  with, you guessed it, a mentally challenged host.  It’s fun and funny, but I’m sure it would offend some too. Oh well, you can’t please everybody.  If you want you can play it for free here.

5 Comments + Add Comment

  • […] and off color, the traffic for those posts usually goes through the roof. My article called “Retards and the Chinese” is a perfect example of this. To sum up, I received a few angry posts and emails about my casual use […]

  • I have often wondered if communication would be enhanced or depreciated if people chose to longer be offended by words.
    The entire point of most words is to symbolize an object or idea. So, if I portrayed an offensive idea and no one was offended, did I really communicate?
    -And who decided that “retard” is more offensive than “mentally handicapped”? I have a gay friend who is offended when I say that something lame is “gay”. He tried to explain to me once by saying that something lame was “hetero”. I don’t think he appreciated me finding it hilarious.
    That video is amazing, btw. Thanks for sharing.

  • […] and off color, the traffic for those posts usually goes through the roof. My article called “Retards and the Chinese” is a perfect example of this. To sum up, I received a few angry posts and emails about my casual use […]

  • […] and off color, the traffic for those posts usually goes through the roof. My article called “Retards and the Chinese” is a perfect example of this. To sum up, I received a few angry posts and emails about my casual use […]

  • […] and off color, the traffic for those posts usually goes through the roof. My article called “Retards and the Chinese” is a perfect example of this. To sum up, I received a few angry posts and emails about my casual use […]

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