Breakin’ Labels | Spoken word poetry about the R-Word.


Retard! It’s a word you woulda’ heard me use a lot,
to describe my thoughts on a rotten situation. Like that attack on Iraq – that lacked any
facts, I sat back and said “now that’s a retarded
altercation”. I didn’t use the word as a way to demean or
be seen as being hateful. Only to let you know you ate your weight in
stupid, and you still got a plate full. So it was ok. It was playful. But I didn’t realize, tied to the other side
of that word, was a slur and people cried when they heard
it. I was oblivious to the insidious nature of
the term……. but I was about to learn it. When my wife gave birth, there was no plan
to rehearse for the worst, no test for this lesson.
I was stressed and confused, I cried at the news,
This ain’t the son that I guessed I was getting! He’s ailing and sick and thin as a stick,
he’s too frail to even come home. They said he’d be slow, success would be low,
and oh! he’s got down syndrome. And that’s when it all changed…. and I became estranged from that word you
heard me use a lot, my son was the one who rearranged the plot.
and taught me words aren’t after-thoughts, they’re weapons — they’re used for good or
not. So I got to build him an armoured heart,
so this word won’t rip my son’s apart, but I don’t know where or how to start,
and that right there is the hardest part. Because I can’t protect him. So I expect when he roams this world alone,
he’ll find this word under every stone, he’ll flip it over and bring it home,
and go over it with a fine tooth comb. And he’ll examine all the ways it’s said,
the nouns, the verbs, the adjectives. But I hope at night when he goes in bed,
this word won’t stay inside his head. Instead, I hope he dreams of this scene in France,
where he sees the word and they exchange a glance,
he extends his hands and takes the chance, and asks the word, “would you like to dance?” And they prance, and play all day and get
dirty, spread their wings and sing like a birdy,
Then he tells the word, “I know that it’s early”
“but I got to go now that I know you can’t hurt me.” And then he goes, and shows the world what
we see, a heart so big you’d hardly believe me,
and though I know it won’t be that easy, he’ll break these labels, so he’s able to
breath freely.

37 thoughts on “Breakin’ Labels | Spoken word poetry about the R-Word.

  1. As a father with a special needs daughter, you spoke my heart. Thank You for sharing your art with me.

  2. That's got it all – positive message, intelligent word play, emotion – and the delivery – impressive! As a teacher who does a unit on bullying, you have made a valuable contribution to my curriculum.
    Thanks!

  3. nobody cares where the word originated from. Thanks for dazzling us with your little fact but it IS offensive.

  4. Wow Robb! Very nicely done!! I hope people learn from this.
    This beautiful boy will change the world for many. He has already changed mine!

  5. Great stuff, Rob. Thank you for sharing your art with the world!

  6. Robb, I don't even know where to start my friend. My beautiful baby cousin opened our eyes to the words that we used, when she was born with Down Syndrome. She has taught us so much about what is "normal". She is a blessing and a joy to us all, as I'm sure that Turner is to you. Much love to you and Kelly for your strength and your courage to stand up and speak for him until he is able to speak for himself. Together we can break labels. Do not allow the ignorant to quench your fire for change.

  7. It IS offensive when it is used in a derogatory way. We don't hear with a dictionary in our heads. The meaning of the three words…fat dumb bitch…by your standard mean nothing more than a mute female dog who is composed from triglycerides. When someone calls a young lady the same it hits hard and deep.
    Think about it.

  8. i was going to say something similar to this but instead i decided to make as many usernames as i could and give this comment thumbs up… instead of censoring your kids and burning pieces of language, why dont you teach your kids how to think critically and how to interpret context…

  9. the mere fact that you are offended by it MAKES it offensive. but that is subjective which makes your label dubious at best. here, watch: i care where the word originated so that makes your previous comment wrong, but only the first part. learn to think like an adult before you speak. it sounds retarded when you dont.

  10. well you can say that about an slur then! what about the N word or any other slur. you can just say oh there only words but the fact is words do hurt… and they hurt a hell of a lot more than a punch in the face.

  11. I absolutely love this it's so beautiful and powerful. Thank you for sharing this.

  12. Beautiful poem. Just need to work on the vids a little, think just a single well lit shot is powerful enough.

  13. amazing. and i have shared 🙂 as the mother of a son with Asperger's syndrome, among other issues, i found the hard part of raising him was not dealing with his issues but in explaining to him why others are mean to him. the hardest was last Dec., having to sit him down and ask how many people knew he had Asperger's at school because people might be mean to him because of what one person did in Sandy Hook. Words have a lot more power than people think, the scars from them last a lifetime

  14. This inspires me. Thank you for your words. For showing us the weight of our words. 🙂

  15. Your sincerity about what you have learned in life and your love for your son is very moving and inspiring, thank you so much, it has helped to make my heart more compassionate. May God Bless You
    PS My sister has Down syndrome

  16. Great job. Totally understand where you're coming from. But when you say "they said he'd be slow" all I could think was "Well, yeah, that's what retarded means." 

    I agree people shouldn't use it as a slur but I still feel like the word can be used in appropriate context. Like fire retardant. 

  17. It's now very common to hear people say, 'I'm rather offended by that.' As if that gives them certain rights. It's actually nothing more than a whine. 'I find that offensive.' It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. 'I am offended by that.' Well, so fucking what. –Stephen Fry

  18. Robb, I saw the video of your son lip syncing to Pink's song and he is absolutely adorable. I don't think you are your son will ever have to worry about the R word. You are very lucky. 🙂

  19. This poem is so powerful 🙂 i'm greatly deeply touched… it reminds me of a bible verse. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. Thanks for reminding us that the world should now use a different angle to look at each other. Accept the differences & dance with it 🙂

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