If It’s “Just a Word”, Why Can’t You Stop Saying It?

Arianna Gouger, Staff Reporter

I never truly realized how much words can hurt someone until I held Lydia, a little girl with Down Syndrome, who was sobbing because people had called her a “retard” 

The word was originally introduced as a medical term in 1961 for people with intellectual disabilities, and in 2010 President Barack Obama signed the “Rosa Law”; a law brought about because of nine-year-old Rosa Marcellino, which changed the medical term “mental retardation” to “intellectual disability” in order to create people-first language. 

Phrases such as “you’re so retarded” and “that’s so retarded” are thrown around like they mean nothing. The slur is often found in songs as well: “I’m artistic, you ____ is autistic, retarded” (Drake, Jodeci Freestyle). “Kids look to me as a God, this is retarded” (Eminem, Walk on Water.)

“We can’t say anything anymore” “Everyone is too politically correct nowadays” “It’s just a word” are complaints I hear often when I ask people not to say the slur. It is not the matter of being “politically correct” or “censoring” people, rather it is people trying to create a more inclusive, respectful society. 

This old medical term has been turned into derogatory slang that suggests that someone with an intellectual disability is “stupid” or “dumb”. The slur is considered hate speech, and emphasizes the belief that people with intellectual disabilities are less than, and should be segregated from the rest of society.   

These outdated, cruel opinions, as well as the r slur, need to be eradicated, which is what the “Spread the Word to End the Word” movement brought about by the Special Olympics is all about. The Spread the Word: Inclusion campaign, which was formed in 2009, works with schools and organizations to educate and urge people to not say the slur.  

As to the slur “just being a word”: “I mean yeah it is a word, but it really really hurts. It makes me feel like people think I’m dumb and not good enough just because I have an intellectual disability when really I am just like them,” says Lydia, “I just wish people could be a bit kinder, and realize that words hurt.” 

Take the pledge to end the slur here: https://www.spreadtheword.global/