Today we take another look at why the use of the word “Retarded” is a big NO! NO!
Abby Lefevbre writes about the R-word:
“That’s so retarded” or “don’t be such a retard” are frequent statements I hear casually said around campus. When used by someone I am talking to I will usually ask him or her to choose a different word. I typically get several types of responses. Many people are apologetic and say, “Oh, sorry, I mean stupid.” Other people have tried to explain that the R-word is no longer associated with people with disabilities and it is just a synonym for stupid and therefore is okay to use. To me, these responses demonstrate that there is a larger problem than the use of the R-word. There is a gross misunderstanding about the meaning of the word and why it is offensive in the first place.
So why is the R-word such a big NO! NO!? Abby continues:
Since the R-word has become commonly used in informal speech, it is harder to see the connection between the original word meaning and the current informal use of the word. For this reason, it may be difficult to understand why the word is still considered offensive. The definition of the word retarded, according to Merriam-Webster dictionary is “Offensive: slow or limited in intellectual or emotional development”. At one point in time “mental retardation” was a medical term used to describe a person with an intellectual disability. However, since then the word has been replaced by the term “intellectual disability” because it is more accurate and accepting. The R-word is an exclusive term that furthers negative stereotypes about people with disabilities. It can be hurtful whether it is directed towards a person with a disability or when used as a synonym for “dumb” or “stupid”. When used in this way it is equivalent to saying people with disabilities are stupid. In addition, the real message of the sentence is lost because the R-word has a completely different meaning than the words “stupid” or “dumb”. There are many other words to choose from instead of the r-word that will better represent the intended meaning.
The use of the R-word is forbidden by Law – Rosa’s Law
Last year, the United States government passed a requirement that all documents and laws use the term “intellectual disability” and not mental retardation. The law is called Rosa’s Law, named after Rosa Marcellino, a 10-year-old girl from Edgewater, Maryland, who has Down syndrome. Rosa’s family was upset that Rosa was often referred to as “retarded,” even on official school documents. The family contacted a local lawmaker about having that term changed in their school district. There was so much support for the change that it was adopted by the state of Maryland and, eventually, the federal government.
We can all gain courage from the courageous words of Julie Gerhart-Rothholz.
After Julie attended the National Down Syndrome Congress annual meeting in Dallas in July she wrote to ABC news veteran, John Quinones, commending him for treating her son born with Down syndrome as he would any other actor he had met. Julie writes for us all:
Mr. Quinones, I’m sure you know that when millions of people watch your show, we often see behaviors and actions that restore faith in humanity. We watch as ordinary people observe the worst of human behavior and then step in and stand up for someone being treated unfairly or cruelly. For the Down syndrome community, your show is necessary and timely, because even though we’ve made great strides toward inclusion and respect, high profile individuals sometimes set humanity several steps backward.