Wednesday, May 2, 2012

COMMENTARY: Time to make "retard" a word of the past


While political correctness can be annoying and downright silly sometimes, in other occasions, it can be a good thing.

One example of it being a good thing is the increasing opinion that the word "retard(ed)" is offensive and derogatory.

This topic came to mind about two weeks ago when I saw a Facebook friend of mine mention how offensive the word is in a status update.

Though it's a word I don't use, the status update has inspired to write the following.

"Retarded" is an offensive word for several reasons and people have to be aware of how offensive it can be.

- Though the words and situations are different, the word can be compared to a racial slur to some extent. One of the many reasons why racial slurs are so offensive is the fact that they're critical of people who were born white, black, Hispanic...ect. We don't get to choose our race or our nationality and there's no reason to be ashamed of it. In this case, the word retard is offensive to those who were born with issues related to intellectual disabilities. Sadly, these cases are very random. The behavior of a woman while pregnant can cause these problems. Random and flukey circumstances during a child's birth can lead to brain damage. Those who are born with disabilities did not ask for it.

- The word can isolate a good portion of our society. Though it was once a medical term, the word itself sounds ugly and comes off as if there's something very wrong with those children (and adults) with Down's Syndrome and other disabilities. In reality, the best way to help those with disabilities is to treat them as if they did not have disabilities. Saying the word retard does not accomplish this and often isolates those from society - something that's a bad idea. The word practically dehumanizes those who were born with disabilities.

- Society has evolved - and so has the English language. Again, mental retardation was once a medical term. However, society and language has evolved to where we can use something different. More and more states have removed "mental retardation" from their health department's vocabulary and replaced it with the phrase "intellectual disabilities." Part of the evolution of our language and the life we live in would be to leave the word in the past.

- Using the word as slang is offensive to those who have intellectual disabilities. Equating morons who commit crimes and do other dumb things to those who were born with their disease and couldn't help how they turned out is morally wrong. By using retard as slang, the word equates those with intellectual disabilities with those who are stupid. There's a major difference. Stupid is knowing something is wrong, but still doing it.

Fewer people are saying the word and based on how people react to it, it appears more and more people understand the ugliness of this.

I am one of them.

Back when I was ignorant in middle school and high school, I used the word. Looking back at it, I wish I could hop on a time machine and slap myself in the face each time I did so.

Though I'm not someone who attempts to lead a cause, let me ask all of our readers this:

Please consider eliminating "retard(ed)" from your vocabulary if you haven't already. While it may seem odd to compare the word to a racial slur, it's not when you consider the fact that it probably offends those with intellectual disabilities the same way as "The N-Word" does a black person.

It's an offensive word that means so much to people in the wrong way. It's damaging to those who are the most vulnerable and it isolates them.