Insensitive R-Word Deserves Retirement

Mindy Luo, Staff Writer

It’s not uncommon to hear the “R-word” thrown around by students. Its usage has become so normalized that many of us often forget about the connotations behind it.

“Retard” is a word originally used to identify those with mental disabilities, but has become a synonym for stupid. “That’s so retarded” and “You’re retarded” are common phrases among students. 

Since when did making fun of individuals born with mental disabilities become acceptable?

The R-word is incredibly hurtful to people with mental disabilities and their family members. 

Junior Emerson Hogan said that she was walking in the Rheem shopping center with her uncle, who has Down Syndrome, when a group of boys and girls came up to them and said, “‘Hey, retard” and then “started laughing and ran away.”

It is torturous for families of mentally disabled people to endure hearing the word being used. “This person that I love so much and who’s the kindest person I know and like, would never hurt anyone, was being ridiculed for something that he could never control and isn’t his fault. I just think that it’s just hateful and sad to say that to someone,” said Hogan.

Use of the R-word is further evidence of the incredibly ableist society we have today. Lack of accessibility to public programs and the persisting lack of awareness about their diverse conditions, continue to plague this vulnerable group.

Institutionalized discrimination towards the disabled is still prevalent. In a study done by Rutgers University, 6,000 fictional job applications were sent out and fictional applicants that disclosed disabilities received 26% fewer responses from employers, indicating the added difficulty for disabled people to get jobs and live independently because of employers’ lack of patience.

According to the World Health Organization, children with disabilities are also 3.7 times more likely than non-disabled children to be victims of any sort of violence, including physical and sexual abuse.

I see students using the R-word in front of teachers in classroom conversations without any intervention. Discrimination against the disabled is still discrimination and it deserves the same reaction we have for racism, sexism or homophobia.  We should not tolerate it.

Insulting someone is problem enough.  Doing so by using the R-word is shameful.  Let’s leave the term behind, just as we have so many other once-popular terms that have since been discarded for the benefit of all.