the R-word is not acceptable

Don’t let kids use it in the gym. Or anywhere.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

8 comments ↓

#1 wordsmith on 12.20.13 at 8:36 am

Is it ever the case where the desire to live in a PC-world and never risk offending anyone sometimes goes too far?

I remember when President Obama joked about his poor bowling skills by comparing it to “special Olympics”. Insensitive, sure; but are we also ever overly sensitive?

Nowadays, I hear people using the term “special needs” and similar terms like “mentally challenged” and “physical disability” in context no different than the non-politically correct insulting labels they were meant to replace. These terms can also now hold negative connotation. Should they now be updated with newer terminology?

It’s not so much the word as it is the thoughts behind the word that can be hurtful. I think a better way of handling the issue is to cultivate the “sticks and stones”-teflon mentality. No one can hurt your feelings or push your buttons unless you give others that kind of power over you.

I remember there was one time when I used “retard” in a perfectly legitimate context. I was explaining to a 10 yr old something or other about her vaulting technique and how what she was doing was “retarding her rotation”. Her eyes went big and she asked me to repeat what I just said. Still not understanding, I translated my words for her and she said, “Then say it that way!”

#2 Hannah on 12.21.13 at 2:18 am

Wordsmith, thank you – you wrote everything I was thinking… So I didn’t have to!

#3 Jb on 12.21.13 at 2:55 am

Disagree – the word retard has a history of degradation and humiliation, dating back to days where people were locked up and taken away from family for being physically or mentally handicapped. It was seen as a family shame that had to be hidden.

It’s not right to suggest that kids with disabilities OR kids who are on the receiving end of nasty jokes being called these names toughen up.

#4 wordsmith on 12.21.13 at 7:04 am

Jb,

I don’t think you’re fully getting my point. I’m not advocating for calling people “retarded” and making it vogue; or for those who are “mentally challenged” to take ownership of the word like blacks who call each other the “n-word”.

But words really only have the power over you that you give them. You can’t always control your environment (pressuring society to not use the word); but you can control how you respond to the environment.

What is the current politically correct euphemism for when we’re describing a certain mental condition? “Cognitively disabled”? “Cognitively challenged”? “Special needs”? “Mentally handicapped”?

I’m saying that it’s not the word (or phrase) itself that is offensive; but how it’s being used. Context. Because no matter what word you try to replace “retard” with, people are going to use the new term as an insult anyway, if that’s the intent. So now you hear someone insult another in this manner: “What are you? Special needs?”. Or someone like the president insensitively comparing his bowling game to Special Olympics (Different issue, but also related). I hear some say it’s no longer PC to say “handicapped” but to use “challenged”. Ok, what then do we use when “challenged” no longer becomes acceptable (as if it already hasn’t)? When does it ever end?

#5 wordsmith on 12.21.13 at 7:18 am

Whether President Obama said “Special Olympics” (correct term) or if he called it “Olympics for the mentally retarded”, in the context in which he used it, the effect was pretty much the same.

I believe “mental retardation” was long used as the diagnostic, clinical term. What is the replacement? Intellectual disability? In how many decades before that becomes the new “mental retardation” and it too will need updating so as to not hurt feelings and be offensive, as opposed to merely being descriptive of a certain condition?

What needs to change isn’t so much the word choice, but the mentality of those who say them with intent to hurt, as well as how we choose to respond to them.

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words don’t have to hurt me. Teach that!

It’s a more efficient form of inoculation to hurt feelings and being offended by everything in the world.

#6 Jb on 12.21.13 at 8:44 am

The message on the video is names are never ok. Think before you speak, everyone deserves respect.

Obama making a comment about his own skills, even as the PRESIDENT (so of course he should be held to a higher standard) is mildly insensitive but can be shrugged off as a word slip, but it is VERY DIFFERENT from kids in the school yard using the word “retard” or “gay” or “sl**” etc as a hurtful nasty word.

WHY should public messages be about “hardening up?” That is for the parents at home or teachers/councillors to give coping strategies on a one on one basis that is “right” for the individual child.

The public message should be that name calling is hurtful and a no-no. That doesn’t make kids “soft”

#7 Sylvester on 12.21.13 at 3:06 pm

Haha. In a recent famous murder2 case the aa girl to the defense lawyer …..’that’s real retarded , Sir ” .

She was defended up & down the country by some & provided plenty of mirth for others.

People are free to take a comment as they will. You cannot outlaw reaction.

#8 wordsmith on 12.21.13 at 8:50 pm

Jb wrote:

The message on the video is names are never ok. Think before you speak, everyone deserves respect.

Certainly name-calling and intentionally hurting others should not be the norm in civilized society. However, the reality is that not everyone is going to abide by “think before you speak, everyone deserves respect.” Therefore, aside from the message of the video, what else can you do to defend yourself from having your feelings hurt? Answer: Don’t let hurtful words have power over you.

You wrote:

Obama making a comment about his own skills, even as the PRESIDENT (so of course he should be held to a higher standard) is mildly insensitive but can be shrugged off as a word slip, but it is VERY DIFFERENT from kids in the school yard using the word “retard” or “gay” or “sl**” etc as a hurtful nasty word.

President Obama didn’t intentionally mean to harm anyone. Of course not. He didn’t intend to insult. However, like institutionalized racism, the context and meaning of his usage of “special Olympics” absolutely is damaging, if we are to be consistent with the position you are taking here. Why promote “mildly insensitive” and excuse it as a “mild slip” to be “shrugged off”? What the President said strikes deeper, for the very fact that he joked without the intent to insult or offend. In some ways, it’s even more egregious than those schoolyard bullies you speak of, intentionally seeking to harm.

You wrote:

WHY should public messages be about “hardening up?” That is for the parents at home or teachers/councillors to give coping strategies on a one on one basis that is “right” for the individual child.

Regardless of where the message comes from, that should be part of the armory in one’s arsenal in coping with hurtful words.

The public message should be that name calling is hurtful and a no-no. That doesn’t make kids “soft”

Why should it be either/or and not both?

Words only have power over us by the meaning we feed to them; and the choice in how we respond and be affected.

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