So after all the positive responses to my post for March's Disability Blog Carnival, I've made a promise to myself to blog more, and today is the perfect opportunity. Today is End the R-word Day. The R-word campaign, run by the Special Olympics, is a national effort to "change the conversation" and eliminate the word "retard" from our language.
My problem with the r-word is not so much when it's used medically as a diagnosis, because, unfortunately, in this day and age, a diagnostic label is needed for any disabled person to get services of any kind (more on that in another post). My problem is when it is used as a synonym for "stupid". We all hear it - I hear it in school especially. "You're acting retarded." "That assignment was so retarded." "You look like a f***ing retard." Tons of people, from celebrities to TV personalities to ordinary people, use the r-word derogatorily. The r-word has been integrated into our culture so much that no one bats an eyelash about it.
The sad part, people have no idea of the r-word's connotations towards people with cognitive/intellectual disabilities. Not only is the r-word used as a substitute for "stupid", which people with cognitive/intellectual disabilities are NOT (some of them are more intelligent than me in some ways!), it also implies that being "retarded" is a bad thing. It is words like this that reinforce fear and sterotypes, because it is sending the message that being disabled (in any way) is this horrible thing that no one would ever, ever want to experience. No one ever wants to be "retarded". I won't deny that being disabled is difficult sometimes, but it's not BAD.
Anyway, I'll end with a quote from my mom, who not only is a parent of a disabled child, but also is a special ed teacher aide: "Some of my best friends are R!"
And for a slightly different perspective on the R-word, here's "About Being Considered "Retarded"" by the wonderful Amanda Baggs.