There’s a sting I feel when that word is said. A jump in the blood in my veins. Because, for me, that word carries a weight. It reminds me of my children. It shows that even still, this world is not considerate of them, and what’s more, can be downright cruel.
The word used as slang bothers me. What’s worse for me though, is that it seems to not bother the people who use it. They throw it out in every day language as if it carried the same meaning as words like “goofball” and “sillypants.” It’s not the same.
This is why. These are my kids. The word ‘retard’ in all of it’s forms is built upon a framework of the ugliest parts of disability. It shows how, again and again, the disabled are the last to be treated like equals. Other derogatory terms are publicly decried from within the community that the word is offensive to and from without. Words like “faggot” and “nigger” are bleeped out on TV, as is completely necessary, but you’ll still see your favorite TV host using “retard” or “****tard” or something of the like without batting an eye. And sure, they’ll hear it from the disability community, maybe even issue a one line apology on twitter, but that’s all.
The word “retarded” needs to go away. But I’m not crazy enough to say that it will. Like any word, no matter how ugly, people are still going to use it. What I want, at least for now, is for people who use it to understand the weight that it carries. If you’re going to throw out that word in casual conversation, I want you and everyone around you to know that using it makes you look ugly, small, and completely socially unaware. Just the way anyone would if someone threw out any of the recognized socially disgusting words, a few I’ve mentioned above. I want gasps to echo the same way as if you had used the n-word or others of the like, in place of ‘retard.’ Because THAT is the same.
The word retard, as I’ve said a million times before, uses my children and all that they endure, as a vehicle for your petty insult. Because when you say that you’re acting retarded, you’re comparing yourself to my child. You’re saying that you’re stooping down to their level. You can say you never saw it that way, that it’s just a word, but if you’re reading this, now you can’t. You now know better, so you can do better. You can be better. And the next time someone around you says something of the same, you can stand and gape at them in shock that they’d stoop so low as to devalue the lives of people who a great deal of the time cannot defend themselves in order to get a laugh. And it can spread this way. You can help me by just understanding that this word carries weight, born by the people with the disabilities themselves, and to let your friends know that it’s not okay to use around you. It’s the simplest things that can create the biggest change.