I never bought into that tired cliche of “Sticks and Stones Will Break Your Bones but Names Will Never Hurt You”. I have been called names growing up and those names hurt. I have big ears that stick out, I had crooked teeth, and I was pretty much a nerd back in the days. I also had mean classmates who picked on me because they assumed I was a certain kind of person based on how I looked and how I acted. I was a bit shy and awkward but I knew that the bullies were wrong. So I fought those who made a pastime out of belittling me. I got into a fight with a bully once and he got kicked out of school. I didn’t feel good afterwards but I was relieved that my tormentor was gone for good.
The teasing and the name calling are all part of growing up but do they ever go away? I have to admit that it is cathartic to curse and hurl insults at times. The F word comes to mind. Sometimes things just don’t work out and we can’t help but label whatever it is that’s happening to us with the first curse word we can think of. My personal favorite is shit or the Pinoy version syeeet. To use it in a sentence: this computer is shitty slow today or “syet itong keyboard ayaw gumana”. There are other more colorful words that I can think of. I sometimes resort to gay lingo because it just seems so much more creative to describe words in that language. So I have to ask why do some use “Retard” or “Retarded?” I have become more aware of these terms because individuals with intellectual disabilities are more often than not diagnosed with varying degrees of mental retardation. Individuals with Down syndrome present with mild to moderate retardation. Actually if we are to be accurate, medical books have now replaced “mental retardation” with intellectual disability. In the states, Barack Obama has signed Rosa’s Law:
Rosa’s Law, which takes its name and inspiration for 9-year-old Rosa Marcellino, removes the terms “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” from federal health, education and labor policy and replaces them with people first language “individual with an intellectual disability” and “intellectual disability.” The signing of Rosa’s Law is a significant milestone in establishing dignity, inclusion and respect for all people with intellectual disabilities.
Unfortunately, the term “retard” has spun out of the medical world and has found its way into everyday language. I see it on twitter all the time. Teddy Boy Locsin has gone on twitter rants using the word. I’ve seen Carlos Celdran use it a few times too. Ang sakit sa mata. Ang sakit sa puso.
Retard is a hate word and a slur. Yes much like the N word for blacks and the F word for gays. Why? Because it demeans a community by reducing them to a stereotype. Retard is always used as an insult. For the life of me I can’t think of any reason why a person with Down Syndrome or Autism or anyone with learning disabilities is considered offensive or laughable. Using the word demeans those with IDDs by treating them as objects of derision and worse that they’re not valued members of society. The word does not only hurt the individuals with learning disabilities but the families and communities who love and care for them.
How “retardation” went from a clinical description to a word of derision
When they were originally introduced, the terms “mental retardation” or “mentally retarded” were medical terms with a specifically clinical connotation; however, the pejorative forms, “retard” and “retarded” have been used widely in today’s society to degrade and insult people with intellectual disabilities. Additionally, when “retard” and “retarded” are used as synonyms for “dumb” or “stupid” by people without disabilities, it only reinforces painful stereotypes of people with intellectual disabilities being less valued members of humanity. (source here)
Of course the bigger picture here is that we should all be mindful of the words we use. It’s not about political correctness. It’s an awareness that the words we use CAN hurt. It’s choosing to use respectful and inclusive language. I guess not a lot of people have had the blessing of interacting with persons with intellectual disabilities and that’s why the R word doesn’t affect them. They just don’t know any better. So, will you join me in creating awareness?
Help me in spreading the word that “retard/retarded” is unacceptable. These posters show that there are other words to use:
Or better yet sign this pledge by clicking on the badge:
Click here to know more about the End the Word campaign and how inclusive and respectful language should be encouraged.