John C. McGinley Talks R-word -

John C. McGinley Talks R-word

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CarolMorgan well… To each their own. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.


I’m baffled about all this attention on the word “retard” or “retarded.”  Why not focus on bringing awareness of the mentally retarded (oh, no, I’ve said the word!) community out to the public?  The word does not change the condition or whatever you want to call it.  I have decided that my son is a special needs person and when asked what are his special needs, I will explain that he is mentally retarded, developmentally delayed with sudden violent outbursts! Is that politically correct?  His needs are to be loved and accepted just the way he is which he absolutely is by his family, group home peers and everyone I know.

Michael Miller

Admittedly, I’m torn over this (and this comes from someone with an autistic son). For one, I’m completely fed up with politically correctness. Right now, “retard” is clearly looked down upon – and I understand why – but mark my words, sometime in our lifetime “special needs” will have a similar stigma attached to it as it, too, will be replaced by the word or phrase of the day. Some phrase that’ll continue to lessen the meaning of any actual condition. Yeah he was a comedian, but George Carlin did a great bit on the evolution of “shell shock” to “post-traumatic stress disorder” (also once called “battle fatigue”). This’ll be a similar evolution.Secondly, I’m one to make judgements based on someone’s intent. I’ve seen pure hatred and racism from people who’ve used the word “nigger” and other terms. It’s kind of scarey to witness. But I’ve seen many other times where – while insensitive I’m sure – just using the word doesn’t have the same meaning behind it. Racism is a feeling, an attitude, ACTION; not merely a 6-letter word.
All that said – whether someone was joking, unaware of actually using the word, or truly being honest – I know I’d be pissed off to the high heavens if someone called my 4-year old a retard.I don’t have the answer. I do, however, think that if we continue to desensitize our language and continue down the path we’re on – it won’t necessarily be a good thing.


I think “retarded” can be both an insult and simply a clinical term for low intelligence. I wrote an article once about an interesting historical (early 1800s) murder case, and speaking of the murderer I said, “He was not terribly bright and may have actually been slightly mentally retarded.” The editor of the site where my article was posted changed it to “may have been developmentally disabled.” I understand why he made the change, but developmentally disabled can mean so many different things, from autism to cerebral palsy and more. Mental retardation means one specific thing. I think it’s a shame that people are afraid to use the medical term because they think others will be offended. But certainly calling someone a “retard” to insult them is definitely wrong.

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