In 2010 the US Senate passed “Rosa’s Law” which is for the purpose of eliminating the word (s) retarded or retardation for the purposes of diagnoses, education and eligibility for persons who are disabled. The terms “mental retardation” are now “intellectual disability” and “mentally retarded individual” is now “individual with intellectual disability”. Other parts of the world like the UK frown upon the use of these words. We would not use the word “cracker” to describe a Caucasian or the word “nigger” to describe an African American, nor would we use “spik” to describe a Hispanic. Why? Because the use of all of these words are unacceptable. They are derogatory and demeaning. So why is it ok to use the word retarded?
Mental retardation or retarded are words that were used in an era long ago to describe individuals with disabilities. It replaced the words idiot, imbecile, moron, mongolism and trainable; it is because of this association that it is unacceptable to use these words. Until the middle twentieth century individuals with intellectual disabilities were hidden behind closed doors. It was shameful to have a family member that was different and the majority were institutionalized from birth so many never even knew they existed. Those that were educated were excluded from public education or were educated away from the typically developing individuals. Over time the word (s) began to be used as an insult or joke using it casually to demean someone and or to describe them as stupid or incapable of learning. And this is what is still being taught today in this generation, and it’s sad that in this day in age there exists such ignorance in the world.
It is appalling that people in the public eye think it’s ok to use the word so freely to describe something or someone they dislike or even to reflect their behaviour as stupid. Here are some examples.
On Live with Regis and Kelly, Jennifer Anniston used the word in response to Regis’ comment “You’re playing dress up!” while discussing a movie by replying “Yes, I play dress up! I do it for a living, like a retard!”
On Watch What Happens Live, Margaret Cho made the comment…”My period comes like twice a month. My eggs are jumping ship,” “Seriously, they’re like, the last one out’s a retard” and “I don’t necessarily want to have a retard baby.” While she later apologized for her comments the damage had already been done.
The most recent individual to hit the spotlight is Ann Coulter. She has taken it upon herself to include the word retard in her day-to-day vocabulary. Insulting the president and defending the use of the word and stating that if people don’t understand that there is nothing wrong with the use of that word as long as it’s not aimed at an actual disabled person than they are even more retarded. It’s not her first time in the spot light for using this word. The worst part is she is completely oblivious to the real world and how words affect people. She is a sorry excuse for a woman and should be fired from the spotlight.
There are so many people out there using the word, it’s all around us from your neighbor to children to celebrities and politicians the use of the word has become a routine. It’s very sad that we are teaching our children “hate” instead of acceptance and equality.
People with intellectual disabilities are not seen as equals in our society and are refused the acceptance as full citizens. Why? Because society has created many misconceptions of who individuals with disabilities really are; they have been subject to discrimination in most countries around the world for centuries. They have been targeted, sterilized and even executed for being who they are. By devaluing human life and agreeing to use hateful, demeaning words to express yourself you are enabling HATE and agreeing that a human being has no value.
My daughter was given the medical diagnosis of “mental retardation” when she was three months old. Not even the doctor who gave her that diagnosis dared to speak those words to me. In the three years of my child’s life not one doctor has ever uttered those words to me, why? Because even they know it is a discriminatory word and they are the experts. It’s a label that blind’s society, it enables the vail to be dropped so no one can see the truth. The truth that individuals with disabilities are worth just as much as each of us, that they are member’s of our families and communities and that they are amazing people.
It’s about more than just a word, it’s about respect! Respect for human life. As a society we must stand up for what is right and stand against what is wrong. Our children learn from us, it is crucial for the future of this country and for humanity that we stop teaching hate.
Spread the word to end the word!