From time to time I like to bend y’all’s ear about the issue of the “R word.” In case you don’t know, the R word in question is retard and retarded.
I have heard pretty much every argument under the sun for why this word isn’t offensive. Really, I doubt you have an argument that I haven’t heard. One that I have always, always struggled with is the “where does it end?” argument. I was an English teacher. I love words. I love picking the exact perfect word out of the dictionary that suits my particular feelings. I enjoying saying “fastidious” out loud.
So how do you decide when a word no longer needs to be spoken?
Hilariously enough, I got the perfect answer from none other than Deadspin–yes, the fast-talking, heavily snarky sports commentary site. And I don’t even like sports.
There was an article talking about The Redskins and how offensive their name is and there in the comments was the classic argument–do we have to get rid of ALL the words.
Funny thing is, somebody had the perfect response.
I’m totally paraphrasing here, but they said something to the effect of: No, we don’t have to get rid of all the words, but if the word has been used as a tool in oppression, has been used to deny people their rights or full citizenship then THAT word does need to stop being used.
Yeah. That random, anonymous stranger nailed it. On Deadspin. Still digesting that one.
So, retard and retarded?
Tools in oppression? Check.
Deny people full citizenship? Check. Check. (30 states still have laws on the books denying the metally retarded the right to marry. Wow.)
So does that word need to go? Yeah, it does.