This morning, I was sitting out on my front porch, just watching the world go by, when I noticed two developmentally disabled people greet each other on the sidewalk.
“What’s up, Retard”?
“Not much, my Retard.”
“You heard from that Retard, Bobby lately?”
“Retard, please. That Retard owes me money. Next time I see that Retard, he better pay me.”
I was intrigued by the commentary, so I yelled out “Hello there, Retards! Nice day we’re having.” Instead of an exchange of pleasantries, I was met with hostility and disapproval.
“YOU cannot call us Retards.”
“Why? It sounds to me as if you mean it in a fellowship sort of manner.” I was quite perplexed.
The younger disabled young man advised me that Retard is a term of endearment in the developmentally disabled community, and therefore, may only be used by other developmentally disabled people. If I, a non-disabled person use the word Retard, I would be prejudiced toward a group of people.
“But the word still means the same thing”, I stated. “The word Retard is defined as a person who is less advanced in mental, physical, or social development than is usual for one’s age. It can also be used to offensively describe something that is foolish or stupid, right?”
The young man stood there in contemplation of my question. He looked up at the sky, then down at the ground. Up at the sky, then down at the ground. He rubbed his chin and furrowed his brows. “By using the word Retard, we, the developmentally disabled, take away its power. We make it our own. We’ve turned it on its head and made it a positive word showing our camaraderie.”
“So then, what you’re saying is all the people who worked tirelessly to pass the American’s with Disabilities Act are okay with this. All the disabled people who endured or continue to be discriminated against, institutionalized, labeled and considered less than a person are happy to be addressed as Retard? It is pretty amazing that with all the years of people throwing the word Retard around to describe things that are clearly screwed up, dim-witted, wrong or socially unacceptable, you’ve managed to take control of a word that has a life of its own by only allowing other disabled people to use it? Wow. That would be impressive if it wasn’t so Retarded.”
“Look around you, fellas. This is a very diverse neighborhood. Italian neighbors to the left, Jewish neighbors to the right and Asian neighbors up the block. I have never heard them address each other with How’s it goin’ WOP, What’s up Kike or Good Evening Gook.”
“Think about this for maybe a moment, my disabled friends. When you call each other Retard, people WILL think less of you. When you call yourself a Retard, don’t get mad when people treat you like one.”
*Feel free to insert another word in place of the “R”….