It is very easy to eliminate a word, or words, from your vocabulary–even easier when you understand the harm it causes to an entire group of people. The word “retard” is harmful, and it doesn’t matter how you use it in a sentence. For a long time I did not have an understanding of the baggage this word carries and I assume many people don’t considering how often I hear it being used. So, if you need to be informed why this word is offensive and why you should stop saying it, please keep reading.
The R-word was originally used to refer to people with disabilities because it means “to make slow; delay the development or progress of,” which was how people with disabilities have been perceived– slower in development than people without disabilities. The R-word has been used in an insulting context, but as we know, the true definition of this word was not meant to cause harm. Nevertheless it became an insult over time.
This word has evolved into being used to refer to something moronic or unintelligent, which is not what people with disabilities are. I remember kids being called “gay” and “retarded” when I was growing up because people wanted to hurt their feelings and offend them, not necessarily because they were either of those things. When you repeatedly use a word in a context it’s not meant for, its true and original meaning is still a part of it, but dilutes, which is what’s happened here. The R-word became an adjective to describe unintelligent things, people, etc. while remaining associated with people with disabilities.
This word is a slur, pejorative like any racial slur. It is used to offend and cause harm to people. Read that sentence again, and understand the baggage the R-word retains. An article by Spread the Word has a quote from Special Olympics athlete Joseph Franklin Stephens about the R-word being used to refer to people with disabilities, which includes himself. He says, “It means that the rest of you are excluding us from your group. We are something that is not like you and something that none of you would ever want to be.” The R-word is still damaging when used to refer to someone with a disability.
As seen above, the R-words is not only disrespectful and abhorrent, but exclusive, too. People with disabilities should not be viewed as a separate group from people without disabilities. We are all people, and people with disabilities are not just that– “with disabilities.” They have complex lives like everyone else, hobbies, interests, careers, and more and should never be made to feel different.
In conclusion, no one should be using the R-word. It makes me sad how often I hear it to this day, and I try my best to educate someone when they use it. Please, please stop using this word (and all slurs). It takes very little self-control to remove a singular (1) word, and even a few words from your vocabulary; and if you’re unable to do so, maybe reconsider your priorities and improve your capacity for fortitude.
I didn’t know how to include this in the post, but I want it here LOL so check out this iconic advertisement by Hilary Duff about using “gay” as an insult: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_MIb3mYznE