Stop the Hate Essay

By Maria Savani

“Are you retarded?”

A phrase I’ve heard my peers use hundreds of times. One simple word most people don’t think about when they use it. Some see it is as another adjective for ‘stupid’ or ‘dumb,’ but there is so much more to the word.

I, too, was someone who didn’t grasp the underlying hate that comes from that phrase. It wasn’t until I started working at Fieldstone Farm, a local Therapeutic Riding Center for children and adults with disabilities, that I realized every time I hear someone say “retard” I am allowing hate a voice.

After working at The Center for a few months, a girl with Down’s Syndrome tapped me on the shoulder and asked me nonchalantly, “Do you like Justin Bieber?” This ordinary question made me realize, although many people are segregated by labels of disability, race, or religion, everyone has similarities which a label can’t break. We all have the desire to belong.

The 12 year old then proceeded to tell me all about her teen idol and her favorite songs. This girl doesn’t have so little in common with me; we both listen to the same types of music, like the same types of artists, and have a shared interest in pop culture. Why is it that when society senses a hint of difference in a person, that person is immediately given a label? If we give in to these preconceived notions, or prejudices, they will continue to cause us to degrade each other, as long as we let them. With todays “fake news” media, highlighting and encouraging hate, we need a strong leader to guide us.

Unfortunately, President Donald Trump is now one of the most powerful voices in America.  All of his actions are magnified and watched closely by the entire nation.  He is supposed to set an example for the men and women of the United States, but instead he satirizes and taunts his peers. I never realized the depth to which Trump could sink, until I saw a video of him mocking a disabled reporter with spastic motion.  This behavior sanctions bullying based on nothing else but appearance. We have to realize that actions and words hurt, and at this time in history it is more important than ever for people to speak up about hate.

It is the positive feeling I get when helping someone, especially those that others find hard to reach, that intensifies my desire to visit and work with the riders at the Therapeutic Riding Center.  Every week I am given the ability to help them improve mentally and physically, and with that comes a mutual satisfaction that both helper and helpee receive.  It is easy for a person to say, “I won’t say ‘retard’ anymore.” It is more important to interact with the mentally challenged in a compassionate way, making us all one in the same, making us all “Beliebers” in a world without hate.