Saturday, July 2, 2011

The R word. Still?

In an age where it seems everyone can "choose" to be offended at the drop of a hat I hesitate to write this post but it needs to be said so I will.  ENOUGH WITH THE R WORD ALREADY!  In the last few months (and twice this week) I have encountered people who are not ready to give up that derogatory and highly offensive slang that we hurled at each other back in the 80's like it was nothing.  I am talking about the word retarded or worse - retard.
This is not about being politially correct although it is justified in that sense too.  Its about being humane.  Its about growing up and its about not trying to cut down someone else by referring to them as a person afflicted with a mental condition or any condition.   The real problem is that the victims here don't even know they are being offended.  That might cause some to say, "then why does it even matter?"   I will tell you why it matters.
It matters to me because when you sit next to me telling someone else that you think its funny to ask your young child  "what are you, retarded?" and you don't stop to think that the mother beside you might have a special needs child or granchild then you are clueless.  Why do we think its ok to call someone a retard?  Why is it ok to continue to use an outdated term in an offensive manner?  It broke my heart to hear a priest use the word in that manner during a homily recently and no one said a thing.  Including me because I cannot bring myself to be the bad guy even when I should.  So I write about it and hope to change someone's mind.

Each of these incidents happened to me recently and in one case it was a teenager, that one I get.  I don't hate that child for calling my gifted son a retard.  She is a child,  a self absorbed clueless one is my bet but guess why she said it?  Because she still hears adults say it!  People have stopped saying "That is so GAY!" for the most part so why can't we quit saying something or someone is retarded?  People have stopped referring to people as "oriental" (unless your over the age of 75.) So why can't we quit the R word?  I can answer that - the offended party can't speak up for themselves! 

The third incident happened yesterday while I was sitting next to an aquaintance whom I previously regarded with a great deal of respect and liked  a lot because she's just so darn fun.   She won't ever know that her casual comment  caused me a great deal of grief or that my opinion of her has taken a drastic downturn. 
I have a child with special needs.  No she is not technically "retarded" or even "intellectually disabled" though if you observed her you would probably think so (she has autism.)  However, you wouldn't know by looking at her that she is supremely bright, she taught herself to read at 3 years old, way before the rest of my typical children.  She would classify as "intellectually disabled" on any test that didn't involve Mario Karts or how to program a dvr (both she is genius at.)  There is so much more to people than a superficial term, a single word classification of one aspect of the whole person. When someone takes a term originally meant as a description and turns into an insult it makes you think, whose the one with the impaired thinking ability really?  I say the one who calls someone retarded in the first place.

So on behalf of mothers and fathers with sweet little children who are intellectually disabled I beg of you PLEASE stop using the R word.  It matters to us.  It's not funny at all.  Ever.  Move on.


  1. So funny you just wrote this - just last night watched an old clip about 3-31-09 (if I have the date right): the day to ger rid of THE R word. They went around to college campuses to promote because the younger kids seem to use it so much more.

  2. I love this post. It reminds me of a similar post I read several months ago by Matthew Hennessey on the First Things Blog entitled "The R Word". Here's the link: Anyway, keep blogging...I just discovered your blog and am enjoying it!!! Rebekah Durham Hart

    1. Thanks Rebekah. Btw that was my sister's name. See posts labeled Becky :). Anyway I am trying to write more. Its very therapeutic. I will check out that link. I appreciate that!