Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Power of a Word..Why the R-word needs go.

Every word within the English language has a meaning and a purpose. Whether it be a word that describes, a word that pronounces or a word that is used to help make a sentence flow. Every single word has purpose. Now I am not going to sit here and give you all a lesson on pronouns, nouns, verbs and adjectives. But I am going to sit here and write about the power behind certain words within our language that have more meaning behind them, considering the power and emotion that is associated with them.

For the past couple of weeks, since Autism Acceptance Month has started, I have read and overheard different conversations concerning the word "Retard". For many people it is just a word. A word that started out as a medical term to describe the delay in something. It was more associated with the delay in mental development. Mental Retardation. Back in the age of my parents and grandparents, this was not considered an insult. It was just a way to describe the mental capacity of someone. But just as Intellectually Disabled stung for me, I am willing to bet that hearing those words back in the day stung just as much. Words and terms are always going to evolve, as society evolves and changes. The question that has to be asked is, is it right to use this word so freely? Using in the contexts of " Oh that is so retarded?" or " Don't be such a retard!" The answer lies within the special needs community. If you ask the vast majority of us, we will most strongly say that, No, its not ok to freely use the word "Retard". As it is right up there with words like " Nigger" or "Faggot" Words that you would never call someone.

 Now I get that most of the English language is built off of dialects of old. Latin, being one of them. But words have essentially evolved, just as society has. For those who still continue to use the "Nigger" to describe an African American or a "Faggot" to describe those who are homosexual, have not evolved. Its the same for those who use the word "Retard" When you start to get past the medical aspect of that word, and use it as a source of an insult or in a derogatory matter, you are making light of a disability. Poking fun of something, that someone can't help about themselves. That is hurtful.

SO while you might think that saying "Retard" isn't a big deal to you, how would you feel if someone took something that is a part of you  and something that can't be fixed or changed and made it a running joke? I bet you, that you wouldn't find it even remotely funny. As that is the trick to humans, we don't like it when our imperfections or things we can't change about ourselves are pointed out and ridiculed.When it comes down it, your self esteem gets slapped. And you hurt. So why is it any different for those who do have a disability they can't help having?

In some of the conversations, that I have had to hear on this subject, the main reasoning for not stopping the use of words that hurt, is this

" Only you can put the power into the words and get offended by it"

There is some truth to that. Yeah you are right. A person can personally take offense to the use of certain words. But the real power is the emotion behind the word and the person saying it. I can choose to ignore insults towards my children, but I can always choose to take a stand against the power that is propelling that word.  So when a person uses the word "Retard" in front of me, it makes me wonder if it is ignorance or if that person just plain forgot. But people wouldn't forget with any of the other words that are derogatory. So with the social attitudes changing in regards to words, so should people.

I guess what I am asking is this, be aware of the choice of words. I know that it seems you can't talk about the wind changing direction without someone getting offended. But here's the deal. If you don't mean it, then don't say it. If you know it is not a nice word, don't use it. Because I will not feel sorry for those who will get an earful or more so from those who have to live with the stigma that "Retard" carries, for the rest of their lives.