The Word

My stomach is clenched trying to decide whether to rock the boat. I am not one for confrontation…I’m actually quite skilled at avoiding it. But I have to say something. I have to point out the faux pas even though I know it wasn’t intended. It was staring at me so hard that I couldn’t scroll past. This has happened a few times now. There are people who make a linguistic faux pas. The “oops, I’m sorry” (and genuinely so). No excuses made just owning a mistake. We all do booboos of some sort. I see this as an opportunity to communicate and educate. Which is much the same with those who really don’t realise their offence (fewer, and younger, but they are out there). A chance to inform is good…if not occasionally tiring.

The term mental retardation was diagnostic, or at least medically descriptive, many moons ago. So the term originates medically. Unfortunately using it as an insult originated humanly…and I definitely don’t mean humanely. It has seemingly become ingrained in our Aussie lingo. When spat at someone it is meant to be derogatory…that is the purpose when said like that and I fail to see why people deny it. For those that utter the classic “I didn’t mean it like that“…huh? You DO mean it like that…that’s exactly what you mean. Maybe they protest because they didn’t intend to insult my child (fair enough mistake to make?) or didn’t intend to say it in front of me (a worrying combination of knowing it’s an insult but aware enough to not want to cop flack for it).

My son’s first year at school involved a lesson with a relief teacher.  The kids were whispering to each other, as they do, when he said “I can hear you ya know. What do you think I am a retard?” Amid raucous class laughter my poor boy sat, shattered. He knew how insulting this was to his sister but wasn’t confident enough to say anything.{I did though!}  The teacher was a  youngish bloke but an educated one who should know better. It is all too common. On television {Shaun Micalef is a recent offender as are his writers and anyone else who saw the script and didn’t protest}, in sport {the urban dictionary actually relates the diminutive “tard” to players, staff and fans of the Melbourne Victory soccer team…I have no words.}

It comes down to this. Calling someone a f%$^ng retard is never a compliment. Using it as an insult implies the folk in our community who don’t speak or are in a wheelchair or who dribble or who think differently or slower than most…are less. And that is simply not true.  So using the “r” word has to stop.

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6 thoughts on “The Word

  1. I agree. I have lived with a physical disability my entire life. I don’t remember the negative insults kids used to say to me related to my inability to walk or accomplish physical tasks. But I can tell you where I was when Eddie G and Ed R called me that in 3rd grade. It made me feel deflated, particularly because I was the top student in my class.

  2. Reblogged this on DeeScribes and commented:
    Yesterday I read a this post about a word I hate. I love language, and I love how we use words to communicate ideas, beliefs, values and thoughts. But there are words I NEVER use, and this post talks about one of those words. As I wrote in my comment on the post, I cannot remember the taunts or words used to pick on my about my uneven gait (my waddle as we called it) or my reduced strength. But I can clearly recall exactly when and where two classmates called me this word in third grade. It was the only time I went home and cried to my mother about being made to feel less than adequate.

    This word is toxic and hurtful to many. I speak to my Personal Assistants regularly about how this slur is not be used in my house.

    What word raises your ire and makes your blood boil?

  3. You don’t have to accept it – but I nominated your blog for a Liebster Award. I am not offended if you decide not to participate, but I wanted to use the chance to let others know about your blog.

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