The bigotry behind the word 'retard'
By Timothy Shriver
Monday, February 15, 2010; A17
Professor and author Christopher M. Fairman ["The case against banning the word 'retard,' " Outlook, Feb. 14] made good arguments about the limits of language to effect change in behavior and attitude, as well as about the nuanced ways in which words such as "retard," "queer" and "gay" can carry multiple meanings, some of which intend no insult or humiliation.
But I believe he missed the point of the campaign by people who have intellectual disabilities, their friends, advocates and tens of thousands of individuals and dozens of organizations: We are fighting a word because it represents one of the most stubborn and persistent stigmas in history. Millions of people have a prejudice they often are not even aware of. It is much bigger than a word, but words matter. And the word "retard," whatever its history, reflects a massive problem.
Mental Disability Rights International has found evidence around the world of horrific conditions -- starvation, abuse, isolation -- in institutions serving people with intellectual disabilities. It happens in this country. In Texas, caregivers were recently found to be forcing residents of an institution to awake in the middle of the night and fight one another while staffers cheered and taunted. Here in Washington, repeated investigations have revealed people with intellectual disabilities as the victims of abuse, indifference and negligent death.
Read more at the Washington Post.