Commentary: The word 'retarded' is hurtful and needs to be cut from our vocabulary
By Becky Pings / Teen Press Corps
'Once upon a time ... there was a retard."
You think that's funny?
Neither do the millions of Americans who are joining the growing movement to eradicate the word "retarded" from the modern vocabulary.
Simply defined, "retarded" means "delayed." While it was once a clinical term used to describe individuals with developmental disabilities, it is now an archaic term, a part of modern slang which equates to anything substandard or "stupid."
The word in its modern sense dates back to the 1950s, an insult thrown on school campuses and in sandlots across the nation. It was never as widely used as it is today, however, where one can hardly walk down a street without hearing it or seeing its impact.
I would know.
My brother has autism and Down syndrome. He loves the simple things: baseball, swimming, books and music. And just like every other person, he has feelings. When he hears the word "retard," even if it's not meant as a direct insult, it's not only a slap in the face to him, but to all disabled persons everywhere.
The fact remains that the word "retard" and all its derivatives is a hate word which, even in the most benign context, belittles and segregates the disabled. It promotes bigotry and intolerance in a society that claims "all men are created equal."
The argument to this has been heard time and time again: "But you know I didn't mean it like that. Stop being so sensitive." It is not the intent of a word, but rather its effect and connotation, that has the greatest effect.
Ben Stiller's blockbuster "Tropic Thunder" is a poignant example of the effects of the "R" word versus intention: Moviemakers claimed the liberal use of "retard" jokes was satire, while critics called the humor tasteless and offensive. Because the "satirical" humor didn't stay in context, the word found new popularity, thereby perpetuating discrimination.
Innocent humor. Satire. Whatever you call it, the word "retarded" is a hate word and should be regarded as such.
Just ask my brother, the retard.
Doesn't quite have the same ring that it did in the movie, does it?
Becky Pings attends Edison High School.