Just a reminder, as it seems many people have either missed the memos, chosen to ignore them, or forgotten them completely: It’s still not OK to say “retarded.” Ever.
Not even when you’re just kidding.
Not even when you post something written by someone else.
Not even because your freedom of speech is protected under the Constitution.
It’s still never OK to use the word “retarded” disparagingly. Ever. Because if you use the word “retarded” to demean something or someone, you are an asshole, plain and simple. You are not clever. You are not funny. You are not ironic or sarcastic or cute. You are quite simply an asshole. That’s it. A giant asshole.
In case you’ve forgotten, there are actual people — human beings with souls and hearts and feelings — who live with disabilities daily. These people are not less than those who enjoy ability privilege. These people are equal to those who enjoy ability privilege. It hurts them and those who love them when people throw around terminology like “retarded” to mean that something or someone is inferior to something or someone else. It kills a bit of their soul and dignity. It kills a bit of them.
Those of us who oppose the use of “retarded” are not too politically correct or “butt hurt,” a phrase many defenders of their right to say whatever they want will regurgitate in defense of their thoughtless ways. Butt hurt happens when someone takes offense to something that minimally affects them, if at all. Butt hurt is when someone’s upset because another person says blue sweaters look weird. But hurt is not when someone’s upset because another person attacks the existence of an entire group of people by using them as an insult. Butt hurt and that are not the same thing.
Those of us who oppose the use of “retarded” don’t want to hear your excuses. We don’t care that you were “just kidding” or that you “didn’t write or say it [your]self.” How is that a justification for perpetuating the harm that careless uses of the word “retarded” cause to good, loving people with physical and intellectual challenges? How is intentionally ignoring or, worse, purposefully spreading hateful ideas OK? It’s not OK. Not even if you were “joking” or “didn’t mean it like that.” We took it like that because deep down, like that is exactly what the term means. At its core, “retarded” can only be taken like that.
Those of us who oppose the use of “retarded” don’t give a shit about your right to free speech. We’re not trying to infringe upon that. That’s not the issue. Go ahead and say what you want. Just think about how what you say might impact others, and if you find yourself demoralizing people based on something about them they were born with or cannot help, don’t do or say it. Have a fucking heart. Don’t be an asshole. That’s all we’re asking. That you try — hard as it might be for you — to not be an asshole.
Those of us who oppose the use of the word “retarded” have respect for people with disabilities and are close to many of them. They are our children, our siblings, our aunts and uncles, our neighbors, our friends, and even ourselves. We care deeply about them and about their right to live without battling prejudice daily. We believe strongly in their right to walk down the street or scroll through a social media site without having to worry about being marginalized and disgraced simply because they struggle with something the offender does not, by sheer luck only, have to battle.
Those of us who oppose the use of the word “retarded” just want you to be kind and considerate. We want you to take what we’re telling you and learn from it. We don’t want you to feel like you have to defend it. We want you to grow from it — to put past actions in the past in favor of becoming a better person in the future.
Want to know more? Check out Spread the Word to End the Word as a starting place. Become our allies in raising awareness about the importance of not discriminating, intentionally or not, based on disability. If you do nothing else, don’t use “retarded” as an insult (or at all, really; it’s no longer an accepted medical term) and call out/educate those who do.