The Smoke Signal, MSJ's Official Newspaper


Don’t Say “Retarded”

A little common sense can go a long way – especially if you are the Obama Administration’s Chief of Staff, and your name happens to be Rahm Emanuel. Even in such a high government position, Emanuel did not have the common sense to stop himself from calling liberal activists “f***ing retarded.” In response to his derogatory comments, Sarah Palin, whose son has Down Syndrome, regarded the term “retarded” a racial slur and consequently asked that Emanuel be fired. In the past, Palin has been criticized for allowing her children to be the topic of various debates, but this time, Palin has a point.

Many people have become accustomed to using negative language such as “retarded” or “gay” to describe trivial plights. The problem with this is that people aren’t realizing the hate they are imposing onto others. Just as we wouldn’t, or at least shouldn’t, call a thrifty bargainer a Jew or even a faulty mechanical pencil Asian, we shouldn’t use a developmental condition to describe an inborn circumstance or a personal umbrage. It’s embarrassing that a generation so intent on raising awareness for gay rights is so callous about flinging around pejoratives such as “gay,” “homo,” or “fag” for all-purpose insults. We love supporting the underdog, but sadly we simultaneously group those who are different and then use their collective titles as names to be ashamed of.

Instead, we should focus on personal ethics. This isn’t about being overly sensitive, and this shouldn’t be about being politically correct. It’s about an individual’s values and sincerity when it comes to respecting others – not just on the surface but with empathy for their differences.
The same circumstance happens at MSJ. We’ve been accustomed to the words “fag” and “gay” in our everyday speech, but people should realize that these derogatory terms always mean something. Anytime and anywhere, the prevalence of such negativity is a constant reminder of the disrespect that we have for our fellow peers. Regardless of whether someone is disabled or not, some individuals may find it a hurtful reminder of the times that they too were on the receiving end of hurtful slurs and stereotypes. Unfortunately, our individualistic culture of conformity, in conjunction with peer and social pressures, only conditions us to further follow this trend of speaking before thinking.

That said, no one is perfect. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that we always have to stick to the norm. The Special Olympics, for example, outlawed the word “retard” from competitions. We can all make small changes; everyone can make the choice to extricate harmful words from their vocabulary. We simply just need to remember: language is power that should always be handled with care.

Written by Arthur Jeng & Justin Sha
Mar 19, 2010 at 01:24 PM

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