Wednesday, March 03, 2010

The R-Word

"A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom." - Thomas Paine

I’ve been following closely the comments made after articles about using the word “retard”. They have been disappointing for the most part. The same old arguments are being whipped out.

"I have a right to use this word!”
“If you are so sensitive, do you park in the handicapped spot in the parking lot?”
“Has this word been used toward you or yours? If your loved one wasn’t offended, why should you be?”
“This is thought control!”
“Masking language is just window dressing.”
“It’s just a word!”
“Get over yourself. You just want to control everyone’s speech to gain social power.”
“I’m not insulting special needs people, I am insulting a normal person who is acting like a developmentally disabled person! It’s just a metaphor!”
“Soon we won’t be able to speak!”

Yes, these are all pulled from actual comments, made by actual people, defending the use of the r-word.

Freedom is not free. With every right comes responsibility. Respect is also “just a word.”

Language is a powerful tool, and one that should not be taken lightly. So many not only take language for granted, they judge others by their abilities to use and manipulate it.

Yes, I can fling back platitudes with the rest of them. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. Metaphors have meaning. Insults cut both ways. If a tree falls in the forest, and no one hears it, does it make a sound?

We are human beings, and many of us are given the gift of speech. Use it wisely. Use it well.


VAB said...

One problem that I have seen again and again, even in the editorial pages of the Washington Post, is that people do not understand why we are complaining about the use of the word. They need to understand that it is not the word itself, it is using the R word (or ANY OTHER WORD that refers to people with intellectual differences) as an insult.

Usually I can explain this with a story. I ask people to imagine someone who has an MR designation overhearing them using that word as an insult, and then to imagine how that would make them feel. If the person is not homophobic, I can get them to understand that using the R word as an insult is much the same as using words like gay or fagot as insults. It is hurtful to any gay people who happen to be there, and it spreads the idea that there is something wrong with being gay. Same deal with intellectual differences.

r.b. said...

Words hurt.

I have never seen Ben out of control angry except one day at school when a "non-special ed" kid called him a retard. He was suspended for fighting back when a kid in his special ed room also called him one.

Why should I be angry when he is only standing up for himself?

Maddy said...

I've been a bit out of the loop lately. Didn't know this was making the rounds - again. Progress nil - no big surprises there, sadly.

Casdok said...

Very well said.

Stimey said...

Well said.