You know which word I’m talking about.

“Retard.”

A word that has gathered so much negative connotation it has become a casual description of anything negative or bad. And we need to stop using it.

The R-word is HATE SPEECH. Patterns show the most common use of the word today is in a “put-down” scenario. It is used to separate the speaker from the subject, casting it as inferior, dumb or stupid. But this word has always been associated with people who have disabilities. In your insult to your friend, you are also implying that the only characteristic of mentally handicapped individuals is their disability. And that’s not even remotely true.

Using the R-word spreads hurt. We have all experienced some form of verbal assault and we all know its pain. But you can defend yourself. You can fight back and self-advocate.

Now imagine if you couldn’t.

So some people may look a little different, speak differently, think differently, or behave in ways outside of society’s “norm.” So what?

I have yet to meet a person who looks exactly like me, speaks like me, or thinks just like me. And I like that. Because a world full of Kylie’s is not a world I want to live in. So why is it a habit of ours to cast out anyone who doesn’t fit our own personal definition of “normal?”

We are all different, and that’s a GOOD thing. So why are we still using a word that brings shame to others differences?

There are approximately 171,476 words in the English language, so take this opportunity to learn a new one. I promise you there are so many other ways to brand someone as foolish without slurring individuals with intellectual disabilities.

Next time your friend is acting wild or crazy or you feel the need to be self-deprecating, feel free to use words such as absent-minded, airhead, birdbrained, dense, chowderhead, doofus, noob or scatterbrain.

Or if something isn’t quite up to the level of “coolness” you were hoping. Maybe try absurd, boring, uninteresting, illogical, silly, bad, wacky, poorly-reasoned, ineffective or inefficient.

Because using the R-word to describe something isn’t particularly “cool” either.

So I beg all of you, please refrain from using a word so offensive, so derogatory and hurtful. Heck, please refrain from insulting anyone at all because you know what? That sucks. WORDS HURT. They always have, and always will. So please, ditch the R-word.