How do offensive words become part of our general conversations? What is the process for a word like bitch or whore to move from something only whispered or shouted in anger to something that teenage girls use to affectionately address each other? Are the words said enough times that their shock value is diminished? Is that what has also happened with the word ‘retard’ or ‘retarded’?
Not a day goes by that I don’t hear or see the word ‘retarded’ used to describe a person (often not a person with any sort of cognitive disability) or an act that a person is performing (“that is so retarded.”). Why doesn’t that bother everyone else as much as it bothers me? I can visit almost any teenager’s Myspace.com page and somewhere on that page find the word ‘retarded’. I’ve been to several movies recently where that word was tossed around like rice thrown at the end of a wedding. Do people not feel that using the word ‘retard’ is every bit as hateful as using the word ‘nigger’? And how did the word find its way into popular jargon anyway?
It’s not just teenagers I hear using the word ‘retard’. I hear their parents and their younger brothers and sisters sprinkling their daily, general conversations with it. It offends me – it hurts me – it angers me. If I hear the word coming out of anyone’s mouth, I will be compelled to share my views with them. If I hear the word used in a movie or TV show, you can bet I will be contacting the creators of that media. I really don’t need to fight anymore battles right now, but I cannot, will not, tolerate the use of that hateful word – spoken innocently or not.