Did you see the news stories about Rahm Emanuel’s use of the word, “retarded” as a slur against his political opponents? It has spawned a number of conversations about the term mental retardation. Some are arguing for the removal of this term in legal and medical arenas. It is too closely connected to the abusive use of the word. Others, probably a small minority, even suggest not using the word retarded in other contexts unrelated to intellectual capacity (e.g., retarded growth, retarding energy consumption).
I’m not much of a fan of this latter idea. I remember when a DC official was castigated for using the term “niggardly” (having absolutely nothing to do with race) just because it sounded like the other “n” word. However, maybe we do need another term. Some are suggesting, “intellectual disabilities” “neurodevelopmental disorder” as options.
I’m for terms that are very descriptive and less pejorative. However, I will also say that stigma and the use of terms to harm will not change as the human heart that does such activity has not changed.
What do you think?
3 responses to “Mental Retardation passe?”
The word “retarded” has been used pejoratively for as long as I can remember. Personally, I wish it were no longer used in legal and medical arenas. It has a negative association to many of us. For me, it’s disturbing to hear children using this word as a put down of other children. Sometimes there is good reason to change a name, and ultimately, it’s for the best.
I am always amazed when anyone uses the word “retarded” much less a person with such media exposure.
I’ve spent three years working as a nurse in a trauma unit. With the frequency that automobile and other accidents occur, I do not know one person who has escaped being touched by a friend or a family member that has had their brain and life tremendously injured.
My life time of observations tells me that when someone such as Mr. Emanuel flippantly uses language such as “retarded” his arrogance is greater than his knowledge base. He needs to develop broader compassion along with expanding his vocabulary. He can borrow a vocabulary book from one of his “academically excellent” children. I am sure the Secret Service will prevent his children from being hit by a car.
Maybe a few sleepless nights next to a love one in an ICU, praying for God’s help, will soften Mr. Emanuel. It changes everyone who has the experience.
It’s hard to know what to call anyone these days. I usually say “mentally disabled” or “brain-damaged” when referring to my step-brother (since he’s both) and physically disabled when talking about Mom since she’s “handicapped.” And I tell people that my brain is sick. 🙂