I have contemplated approaching this topic many times, but never could quite completely gather my thoughts. Lately, the topic has come up one to many times though, so I feel its time to put in my word on the issue.
There are some words that greatly offend people. The "B" word, the "N" word, the "F" word, the "C" word, and particularly, the one I am going to concentrate on... the "R" word. Its the least respected offensive word. Used freely to describe anyone and anything, without too much hesitation and without too much criticism. But yet, its incredibly offensive.
Lebron James recently publicly told a reporter that his question was "retarded". Now, he did give a public apology, which I believe was truly sincere and hopefully not just what his PR instructed him to do, but really, most people don't see the harm in using this word. The message boards on ESPN and other sites clearly indicated it with the majority of the commenters insensitively leaving "get over it" remarks.
And I completely agree with what most of them were saying. I do not think Lebron James was thinking about mentally handicapped people when he said what he said. I know there was no intent to make fun of or hurt anyone. So "get over it"- the word was not being used in an offensive context. But the word itself is offensive. Period. Its original sole intent was to hurt and degrade a group of people. (To get real specific, it was a Latin musical term meaning "slow" that was then used to degradingly describe people who were "slow") And the fact that it can interchangeably be used to describe other things, doesn't change the word itself. Whether you are talking about a person or a lamp or a question, the word compares it negatively to a mentally challenged person.A category my daughter falls in.
A word is a word. " Sticks and stones my break my bones, but words will never hurt me". That childhood saying to encourage you after a verbal attack. But unfortunately they do hurt. And while I do not take it as a personal attack when someone uses the "R" word, I appreciate when people are respectful enough not to use it. Its not a matter of who is right or wrong. You can defend your self by saying you "didn't mean it that way" ( which I have done in the past) but it wont change that you offended someone. And telling them to "get over it", ya that doesn't make them feel any better, never mind it completely negates the pain you just caused someone. (Along other insensitive comments such as "They are too stupid to understand what he said anyway")
I pray I never have to deal with someone actually calling my daughter the "R" word for the real intent of the word. (And yes, surprisingly this still occurs more often then you would think) But I don't cry every time I hear the word. It really doesn't offend me when being used out of context. However, for no other reason then respect, we are trying to keep the "R" word out of our vocabulary.