Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Palumbo and Shriver: Spread the word to end the word
By Soeren Palumbo and Tim Shriver
Guest Columnists
The Yale Daily News
Published Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Today, thousands of college students on hundreds of campuses, joined by students of all ages, are trying to jog the consciousness of a nation. We are sensitizing Americans to a subtle but pernicious prejudice reflected in our language — in the common use of the slur “retard.” Everyone can join this human rights movement. It’s as simple as changing the way we speak.
But are we fighting something that even exists? We say yes.
We come to this movement from different backgrounds. Tim grew up coaching in Special Olympics, while Soeren grew up with his younger sister Olivia, who has an...

#1 By Wish it weren't so 5:29a.m. on March 3, 2010

I wish we could create a society in which everyone was sensitive to everyone else's feelings. And we have gone a long way, as the work of the late Mrs. Shriver, especially The Special Olympics, symbolizes.

Unfortunately Nature seems to have other ideas. A pecking-order seems somehow embedded in very "substance" of both human nature and the Natural world.

Unlike the Natural world, humans can raise their consciousness and CHOOSE to be kind and considerate. We did that with the gender inclusive pronouns issue (his/her s/he, etc.) two decades ago.

But will the result be like the proverbial bubble in a tire tube? Push the bubble in and make it smooth in one place and it pops out somewhere else?
I wish it weren't so.


#2 By BR'10 9:54a.m. on March 3, 2010

This is silly. There will never be a way in which individuals of low intelligence are valued as highly as those who have at least normal intelligence.

If it's not retard, it will be something else. I'm not saying one should be purposefully mean; but I for one am glad I live in a society where intelligence is valued. A society where low intelligence is not an insult is saddening.

#3 By Brrrr! 10:45a.m. on March 3, 2010

#2--On the slippery slope to eugenics, are we?
"There will never be a way in which individuals of low intelligence are valued as highly as those who have at least normal intelligence"
What a cold statement. I agree with your claim insomuch as it is likely that society will always "value" those who are smarter. However, even though society may not value developmentally disabled individuals, we can certainly respect them and at least pay lip service to this effect. It really doesn't cost much to not use the word "retard." For you to begrudge eschewing that little word is callous. I'm sure if there were some epithet that applied to you, you'd see the point of this. You cry "Censorship"? I reply, "
Basic manners."
#1--Your sentence says it all:
Unlike the Natural world, humans can raise their consciousness and CHOOSE to be kind and considerate.
So why not go with this? Sure, the "bubble" may pop out somewhere else, as you put it. People will always find unique ways to be offensive. That doesn't mean we shouldn't try. As an analogy, politics will always be corrupt. For every case is revealed and/or prosecuted, another case will surely open up and require resources. That doesn't mean we should stop trying to foil corruption.

#4 By Different BR '10 12:18p.m. on March 3, 2010

"A society where low intelligence is not an insult is saddening. "

I think a society where people with mental or physical disabilities are treated with disrespect is much more saddening.

#5 By y10 1:28p.m. on March 3, 2010

@2: You are absurd. Living in a society in which intelligence is valued does not mean that society should insult those whose mental and/or physical capacities are physiologically stunted. Seriously ridiculous.

#6 By anonymous 2:07p.m. on March 3, 2010

Although I understand the pain associated with the abuse of the word retard, I equally resist the urge to normalize what is not normal.
When you call a black person "n...", it's clear why this is a slur: you are evaluating somebody just because of the color of his skin, you are essentializing a marginal characteristic.
And although I understand that people with mental disabilities are also persons, regardless of their intellectual incapacity, there is a fundamental difference between being black and being retarded. There is nothing wrong with being black. On the other hand, there is something wrong with people who are retarded. They are not just "different" or "special" or a "minority". Now, that doesn't mean we should tease them, terrorize them, make them feel uncomfortable, etc. They certainly do have dignity. On the other hand, I refuse the discourse which tries to persuade me that having an IQ of 65 is just being "special". It's not. It's really unfortunate.

#7 By BR'10 2:25p.m. on March 3, 2010

I'm not advocating that you go kick your nearest mentally disabled people or mock them.

But I don't see a meaningful way were being a 'retard' or 'stupid' or any of these concepts aren't insulting to individuals who don't think of themselves within this category.

There is always going to be a slur word to describe those of low intelligence and most people won't like being described as such. This is why I don't see why fighting against 'retard' is worth doing. The next word will be as bad.

#8 By There but for the grace of . . . 3:43p.m. on March 3, 2010

There is an old fashioned adage never heard any more: There but for the Grace of God go I.

I suppose it has been abandoned since it implies that those outside God's grace are the physically and mentally challenged, itself an insulting form of
theological elitism (the "chosen" v. the "unchosen").

Perhaps this adage could be more modernly expressed as "There but for the grace of genetics go I."

This is a very confusing world now that we don't have a deity to blame for everything, both good and bad.


#9 By jf 11:50p.m. on March 3, 2010

In paragraph 7, the authors start out by asserting that "retarded" means what it actually means, and shift to asserting that it means "worthless." This is sneaky on the part of the authors because while we probably all agree that it's not okay to think that retarded people are morally inferior or are not fully human, it's also impossible to deny that retarded people are less intelligent. So using "retarded" to mean "worthless" should be impermissible, but using "retarded" to mean "stupid"...should at least be up for discussion? It's actually a pretty interesting question, but the authors don't ever address it.

#10 By The Hyperbole King Himself 10:57p.m. on March 4, 2010

Isn't part of the issue recognizing hyperbole? "That's so Republican" doesn't mean an actual political party.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow, reading the comments of these Yale students make me ill. Have you no shame, no dignity for those who are vulnerable. Good luck living in your one dimensional world.