I’ve gone back and forth many times wondering if I would ever sit down and actually write this post. It’s weighed heavy in my mind essentially since Caleb was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and we weren’t sure if he would have any intellectual delays or disabilities. I came across this post and video by Ellen on Love That Max. She articulates exactly why calling someone a “retard” or “retarded” is terribly offensive. The post is wonderfully written and so are most of the comments but I was dumbfounded at the number of people that anonymously responded really cruel and hateful replies. I don’t recommend reading the comments if you want to continue to have any faith in the human race.
Recently, I was in a situation where someone jokingly likened themselves to a “retard” because they were incapable of doing something. At first I was shocked. It was just said so hurtfully. Then, I felt my words bubble up inside me and before I could stop it, I let her have a piece of my mind. “You know that using that word is incredibly offensive right? It should be taken as seriously as any other kind of slur and I would really appreciate it if you didn’t use it.” I couldn’t believe what happened next; she laughed it off and made some nonsensical comment about not being “politically correct”. I had to reiterate a number of times that she really shouldn’t use that word and I didn’t give a damn about her political correctness. She responded, “OK, I won’t use that word in front of you anymore.” Like she’ll still use it, but only if I’m not around? Ugh. I still cringe just thinking about this exchange.
I’m not totally innocent here. Have I used the r-word before as an insult? I’m sure I have. Have I used it as a synonym for slow or dumb? Yes. Am I proud of it? No. I’m rather embarrassed actually, but to be honest, I didn’t realize how offensive it was until I became a special needs parent. I think most people who use the word use it as slang and it’s not meant to offend people with disabilities but by using the r-word, they are, whether they know it or not. It has become a part of everyday vocabulary. Check out how many times the R-word is mentioned online! It gets tossed around a lot. I understand the root of the word comes from the medical term “mental retardation” but it has been re-named intellectual disability. This week marks the 2-year anniversary of the signing of Rosa’s Law which “[…]changes references in many Federal statutes that currently refer to “mental retardation” to refer, instead, to “intellectual disability”.
Up until now, I’ve remained quiet, but I feel like I owe it to the people I love, respect and admire to let them know (without judgement) that the r-word is an offensive and hurtful slur. I’m not going to be afraid to speak up and I vow to start Spreading the Word to End the Word. Please think twice before using the word “retard” or “retarded” because you never know who you might be hurting. And if my plea isn’t enough to cause you to reconsider using the r-word, then I think you need to do a little soul searching.