Today is the "spread the word to end the word" day. An underground national campaign to end the use of the word retarded. I wasn't going to write anything about this. I wasn't even planning on sharing a link or two on the "Find My Eyes" Facebook page. But here I am, finding myself helpless to ignore it.
The word mentally retarded was originally introduced as a euphemism to describe an individual with an IQ below 70. It replaced clinical diagnoses like idiot and imbecile and moron. It was a great leap forward in a campaign to end those hateful words appearing on a clinicians report.
It seems that the time has come to replace it again. We're seeing more and more diagnoses of "cognitive delay" or "intellectual disability". It is because the word retarded has become so commonplace in our lexicon, that the colloquial use has become the proper use. "The button on my shirt broke... retarded shirt!"
I am embarrassed to admit that I have used the word retarded to describe an object or a situation in my life. I am proud to admit that I no longer do. It didn't take having a "special needs" child to get me there, either. There is such hatred and hurt behind the word. It's simply wrong. I imagine if you're taking the time to read this blog, you are intelligent enough to know that already.
Here is who I want to address... the people that defend the use of the word (Anne Coulter). You are smart enough to know that you are using a word that has a history of hatred behind it. You are smart enough to know that you are using a word that has a history of hurt behind it, yet you defend your use with phrases like "I didn't mean your son" or "I'm not talking about a person" or "It's too good a phrase, I'm not letting it go" or "Stop being so sensitive. The world doesn't revolve around you".
The word hurts.
It hurts millions of Americans (children and adults) and their families and their friends. It hurts my son. It hurts me.
I am not actually advocating the end of the use of the word, "retarded". I just want English speakers to know that they are choosing to alienate, stigmatize, and harm others when they choose to use it, and that's on them.
There is a terrible racist and hate-filled history behind the term Mongoloid to describe children with Down's Syndrome, but most of us have never heard that term because in the 1960s the World Health Organization deemed it inappropriate in clinical or diagnostic use.
See? We can change.
Even The Black-Eyed Peas had the good sense to change the name of this blog title's song to "Let's Get it Started" for radio release.
If Fergie can do it, so can you.