I have a friend named Katie. She's seventeen. Her brother Daniel has Austism and Tourette's Syndrome. For over a year now Katie has campaigned on behalf of the spread the word to end the word project, which is determined to take the word "retard" out of the vernacular.
It's an easy thing to say. "This is retarded." or even, "I'm such a retard" wherein the defense is "Well, I'm talking about myself." I've been guilty of saying it, too, and my excuse used to be I was a teenager and didn't think.
But Katie is a teenager. She thought.
And what she thinks is this: more than any other word "retard" is offensive because the people to whom it refers often cannot defend themselves.
I'm lame, often. If I refer to something as "lame", yes I know I'm referring (technically) to the physically disabled. But I'm one of them. I limp along with my cane and I can say that--for instance-- having class on a sunny day has about equivalent suckage. It is lame. And if I WERE offended by it, I could speak up.
But people who were once classified as "mentally retarded" often cannot. And the word has a ton of insulting connotations. It's often used far in far more derogatory ways than lame, and also it implies the same second-class citizen status as the n-word.
I also believe in the taking back of words, such as the c-word, but this is a decision the population TO WHICH THE WORD REFERS must do. The word, I think, belongs to them now. And since it's the Special Olympics who heads the campaign to see it gone, I want it gone.
Not everyone agrees. I encountered an author once whose books were about accepting LBGTQ teenagers who had her teens use the word for "realism" and the double-standard was never addressed. She got very defensive when I pointed it out to her.
Don't have a double standard. Don't fight against "that's so gay" and "faggot" and accept a word that hurts a group of people who are--generally generally generally speaking--too innocent or otherwise less able to fight back.
And if you read all of this and don't second guess your use of the r-word, I offer a quote from a man born today who had a lasting impact on the world using very few words:
"A person's a person no matter how small".-- Dr. Seuss
And I ask you to add to it: "A person's a person no matter of their abilities" and a person does not deserve to be insulted just because you're too lazy to think of another word to describe the friend who accidentally cracked an egg on his head.
Take the pledge to end the word