After reading the title of this article, some of you may be wracking your brains of all the profanity you know in order to figure out what word I'm referring to. To answer your question: "Retard" or "Retarded." This word probably didn't even cross your mind. People sometimes don't see it for the derogatory term that it truly is, and to me this is infuriating.
In the past, "retarded" has been a term used to refer to individuals with mental disabilities. It is not commonly thrown around in that sense anymore, as it has been deemed extremely offensive and outdated, yet people still seem to throw it around and treat it as though it isn't tearing down an entire group of individuals in the process.
Just because someone's brain may not function in the same way as others', does not mean that they should be treated with any less dignity than people whose brains function in the traditional sense. It definitely doesn't mean that it's acceptable to insult others who may or may not suffer from a disability by referring to them as someone who does.
Why is this an insult? Why do people think it's okay to make fun of others for being something they did not choose to be? Why do people use the misfortune of others as fuel to insult those around them?
In my opinion, the 'R' word has just as much power behind it as the 'N' word. Although in different situations, both words have been used to oppress and demean minority groups of society, and this is not okay in any sense. Yet for some reason, people in our society still throw around these terms as if they have no meaning whatsoever.
Why do we feel the need to use terms that oppress those who are different than us? Why do we feel the need to keep terms traditionally used in a derogatory sense part of our vocabulary, and part of our society?
I have two brothers. Matthew is fifteen years old, just started high school, and is a perfectly healthy teenage boy. Francis, on the other hand, was born when I was in second grade and passed away shortly after. He would have been eleven years old in March, living with down syndrome, and being just as happy and loved as any other child his age.
My brother is no different than yours, other than the fact that he would have learned and interacted with others differently, so why do people like him have a term to defile them, and why is it thrown around as though it's "not a big deal"?
So I guess, here's a rule of thumb. If you wouldn't say a derogatory term to the person's face who it is referring to, don't say it to anyone. Treat all people with the respect they are due and keep in mind that just because someone may be different than you are, does not mean they have any less worth.
Remember that your words have power, that they have meaning, and that you never know how they may effect someone else. Although sticks and stones may break bones, words break hearts. Remember that.