The R word (Retard)

Fabiana Centeno

How can one word build up enough anger inside of you that it makes you want to explode?  How it can one word cause so many mixed feelings that you don’t know how to feel? There are many words that can cause mixed emotions and some words that are controversial. One of them is the R word which is used frequently today.   

The big question now is where did the R word come from? The R word from came from Mental Retardation which was introduced as a medical term for people with intellectual impairments. It was at first introduced as a term by the American Association on Mental Retardation in the 1960’s then was adopted by the American Psychiatric Association. Throughout time, the use of the R word has been used an insult to call someone slow or stupid. But what some people don’t know about using that word is that it’s an insult to people with intellectual disabilities.  

“It’s beginning to be a common word that has a derogatory meaning,” special education teacher Jason Weite said.  

If we know that the R word is an insult to them, then why do some people still use it? People sometimes use it because they lack the knowledge of knowing how that word really means to people. They don’t understand why it can offend others. Other people might say just to seem cool, but they know that it is an insult they just don’t care.  

“They joke about it with their friends and expect no consequences,” English teacher Katelyn Diiulio said.  

 It’s like back in history when people use to use ‘gay’ to describe something lame but today most people don’t use that phrase anymore because society has made that unacceptable and looked down upon. How come society hasn’t talked about how the R word is unacceptable?  

“They’re ignorant and uneducated, they also don’t have experiences with people that struggle with mental issues,” Diiulio said.  

For me, my brother was born with Epilepsy which affects his brain. He can’t do normal things like every other 14-year old is able to do in their daily lives. He can’t even do simple math or even know how to tie his shoe. The thought of someone calling him the R word will trigger an angry feeling in my body that will build up and make me feel like I’m going to explode. How can someone that is lucky to be able to go on with their daily lives who are able to do simple things’ that we are fortunate to do have the right to call someone who struggles to even do a simple task that word? 

Society is trying to make a statement to eliminate the R-Word, In 2010, former president Barack Obama signed a law that was passed to eliminate all references of using mental retardation in the medical field and instead replace with the term mental disability and individual with an intellectual disability. It’s called the Rosa’s law which was named after a nine-year-old girl who has down syndrome.   

Special Olympics, Best Buddies International and supporters unite in March for the annual Spread the Word to End the Word day which is main purpose is to stop the use of the R word. It’s to rally people to pledge to eliminate that word to make the world a more inclusive and respectful for all people. This has been annually for the past 10 years and it has been successful. However, people are still using that word especially in social media.  

“I think people are using that word so much they don’t even know they’re using it. We should ask them why they use that word to make people realize what it means,” Weite said.   

 There will be those people that say, but I have the right to say whatever I want!’ Yes, you do have that right, however there are plenty of options to replace that word with. Don’t use the First Amendment as an excuse to say something. There also something called respect. Just because that word doesn’t affect you doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect others. Just because It doesn’t hurt you doesn’t mean it doesn’t offend others.