The word “retard” is hate speech. It has the power to insult, offend and belittle and is referred to in deference as the “r” word. It is no longer used as appropriate medical terminology, but instead as an insult for someone or something stupid.
The term was used last evening as a pejorative by political commentator Ann Coulter to describe the President of the United States. Although the talk of politics is filled with charged emotions and clashing opinions, talking about someone using hate speech is never appropriate. The Tennessee Disability Coalition condemns the use of this term, especially by a figure on a national platform.
Individuals with intellectual disabilities are active members of our community and will be voting in the November election. We have a place in politics and we protest the use of language meant to exclude us.
In 2011, Governor Bill Haslam introduced a bill which replaced the term "retardation" with "intellectual disability" in the Tennessee State Code. When that bill became law it updated the way our state describes individuals with disabilities in line with respectful language of our modern day. Our federal government is also working to update its language to remove the “r” word, and the national “R-Word: Spread the Word to End the Word” Campaign is working to eliminate the demeaning use of the “r” word in everyday speech.
If players on our state and national political stage are not yet aware of the hurtful connotation of the “r” word, the time for education is now. From the commentator who did use this hate speech last evening, the time for an apology is now.
For more information, contact the Tennessee Disability Coalition at: 615.383-9442.
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With all due respect, the word “retard” is not hate speech. It means, simply “to slow up especially by preventing or hindering advance or accomplishment.”
It is used in the automotive world all the time when one wishes to either advance or retard the ignition timing. It was adopted by the mental health community as a more gentle term than idiot, imbecile, and moron, which were all used to describe mentally retarded people in the past. Should we have campaigns to end the I word, I word, and M word, too?
Frankly I think retarded sounds better than “mentally disabled.” Disabled, meaning inoperative, seems much more limiting than just being hindered. And what happened to handicapped? We can’t say that anymore. Frankly, I can’t keep up.
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Nail on the head, Mr. Willingham. Perhaps Ms. Sampson should devote less time to being a bleeding heart and more to being literate.
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With all due respect, the word "retard," when used by Ann Coulter, is always hate speech. In fact, any time Ann Coulter speaks, it's likely hate speech. Anyone who would think otherwise is sadly mistaken, for lack of a better term.
Sarah, don't hold your breath waiting for an apology. It's not in Ann's vocabulary.
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Wow, who knew reading commentary could be so edifying. I'm not a member of the word police, I generally abhor labeling words as 'hate speech' or as politically incorrect, and I have no opinion regarding the propriety of Ms. Coulter's comments, but I can't stand the hypocrisy. If you're going to act self righteous, pull out a dictionary and hang your hat on a denotation, at least define the word as it was used in context, which in this case was as a noun (not a verb) denoting someone with diminished intellectual capacity (and often an appearance associated with chromosomal mutation). You may not feel she is owed an apology, but call it for what it is: you don't find the word offensive; therefore, she shouldn't either.
Oh yea, I would note that Ms. Sampson described folks with mental disabilities as 'we,' so I presume she feels personally offended, perhaps because she or someone for whom she cares has been on the receiving end of taunts and probably countless other indignities. If she has been personally affected and prefers one label to another, shouldn't we respect her opinion? Isn't one who has actually experienced something in the best position to address it? It's not like she is claiming the word is offensive while also continuing to employ it. Walk a mile in her shoes and tell us how you feel.
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To Mike Willingham and Dottie Brewer, sorry the two of you are wrong. I’m not demanding an apology from anyone for the use of retard or retarded but those are hurtful words. They are demeaning and damaging. I don’t know the two of you and I don’t know the make up of your families but if either of you have children, then be thankful you don’t have a mentally challenged child.
The word had so many meanings these days. But it is generally used to describe citizens of our United States of America that don’t quite meet the educational standards of most communities. But the word is used to describe so many at so many different levels of intelligence.
I ask people not to use that word in front of me. I am insulted by the use of this word and I am insulted in the way the way the two of you pass the word off so easily. I agree with the word disabled. Many mentally challenged citizens can accomplish quite much if given the chance.
But seriously Dottie, a bleeding heart, hopefully you aren’t defined by your opinion because you would be so limited.
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There are two meanings to the word "retard." The verb "retard" I believe is the one Mr. Willingham is referring to. The word "retard" is a noun that is used in a demeaning, ugly fashion.
Ann Coulter should apologize. Just like there are two meanings for the word "jerk."
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There's nothing simple or literal about Ann Coulter's use of that word. She used the slang, noun version, the intent of which clearly was to insult and inflame (which is pretty much the purpose of her entire career). She must be about to publish another book and needs to gin up some free publicity for herself.
You stay classy, Ms. Brewer. Your comment speaks volumes about you.
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Anyone who has spent any time with people with developmental disabilities knows they loath being referred to as retarded.
The reason is simple... ignorance. People are cruel, especially young people. Most people with disabilities have been treated poorly, been called names, and people have used the word retarded to them in a derogatory way.
No difference with African Americans who hate the N word. When a word is use to inflict harm you cannot blame a group for rejecting that word.
No one says other use of the word like retarding an ignition timing is bad. Obviously you would not developmentally disable it, or intellectually impair it. Asking people to stop using a word that's been heavily degraded into a negative thing isn't out of line.
Ninety-nine percent of the people we are talking about have done nothing wrong. These are good loving people, who are innocent and stricken with disability through no fault of their own. They hate the word and we should respect that.
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Wow. I don't consider myself a bleeding heart or illiterate and yet I still agree with Ms. Sampson's opinion of this word. We are not referring to cars here - we are referring to people.
If we use the argument that words that were okay in the past should still be okay, I can think of many very offensive words that would probably make both Mr. Willingham and Ms. Brewer blush. Because something was once acceptable doesn't make it always so.
And, Ms. Sampsons post was not politically motivated or an attack on someone personally. It was informational. Perhaps that is something Ms. Brewer could consider next time instead of name-calling.
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For someone who appears to own a dictionary and portrays himself as a person who has some basic understanding of the English language, the person above who justifies Ms. Coulter's use of the "R" word seems pretty ignorant. In all languages, words have more than one meaning. It's not uncommon for a word to have a perfectly acceptable and benign meaning in one context and an offensive, inappropriate meaning in another.
Such is the case with the "R" word here. It's true, that word (when pronounced with the emphasis on the second syllable) is a verb meaning "to inhibit." However, when used as a noun to describe a person (with the emphasis on the first syllable), its meaning is offensive and, I believe, a hate word. That's why Ann Coulter uses it. I am offended by that word and, although no one in my family is mentally challenged, I don't allow its use in my home.
Ann Coulter is like Kim Kardashian or a professional wrestler. She has no real talent and is only famous because people keep paying attention to her. Her modus operandi is to spew venom on whatever group will be the most offended and, therefore, give her the most exposure. Television producers keep giving her platforms from which to spew her venom, thus increasing viewer ratings. If people would stop paying attention to her, she would hopefully (and thankfully) just go away.
Sam Robinson III
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I owe an apology to Ms. Sampson.
I had not seen the Tweet Ann Coulter had issued. She did use the word in a hateful context. Shame on her, and shame on me for not having all the facts.
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Regarding the meaning of words, I decided to look up the meaning of "b----." It perfectly described Ann Coulter.
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Mike? I know you, you know me. We're cool and we will be the next time we meet. Smiles will be genuine from both directions.
But I have got to tell you, brother, retard and advance worked on old time distributors on all kinds of old time motors. The problem is that they have electronic ignitions these days. They are computer controlled. You rarely do that anymore and that term is old school as it relates to mechanicals. That was then.
This is now and what we have is a repulsive, caustic woman who used the word "retard" to refer to the President I just early-voted against. Why didn't she go ahead and use the "n" word since she's so smart and brave? It's the same thing. We all know what these words mean regardless of how Webster's defines them.
Like the lady said, cute and funny people shortened "mentally retarded" millennia ago you were a "retard" if you did or said something that was off the chart stupid. There is correlation there, no? Why is it hard to understand that that word used that way hurts people? This is so unrelated to PC. It's simply decent. That's all. The intellectually disabled have brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers and cousins and aunts and uncles who would gladly die for them. Every one of them gets stabbed in the gut when "retard" is flung around like that.
These families know what I learned over the span of four summers at GG Ranch almost 40 years ago: The unbridled "L" word. No person, place or thing (all religion included) can teach you hands-on more about love than a 15-year-old with Down's. Or a 20-year-old gentle giant. Or the incredibly happy eight-year-old I knew whose mamma couldn't stand it anymore and dipped him into a pot of boiling water when he was an infant. He survived and thrived and, you know, he was a retard. Really? Retard?
I hold no angst against anybody unless they use that word in that context. We don't deserve an apology at all. We owe Anne Coulter a butt whipping.
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Seriously? Anybody who wants to support the use the term “retard” in the context used can’t possibly believe that argument has any merit. If so, you are back in the 1950s where it was cool to make fun of epileptics and Downs syndrome people. I can’t believe that someone who supports the “retard” comment would have the guts to put their own name to it and feel it’s an acceptable opinion. Ignorant, ignorant, ignorant.