It’s not just a word

Reporter: Katrina Owens

You’re a retard. Oh my god, you’re such a retard. You’re acting retarded.
Many people, at one point in their lives, have probably said something similar. Retard by definition means to be held back in terms of progress, development or accomplishment. Retard or retardation is also a medical term doctors can use to explain why a person can’t do certain things. All in all, I think most people would agree retard is a word that carries a certain negative connotation.
People are scorned for using racial slurs, using cultural stereotypes, and calling homosexuals derogatory names. This is because using such harsh words to describe people isn’t socially acceptable. So why can calling someone a retard be okay and shouting out a racial slur be a hate crime? Both situations are equally degrading. For this reason it flabbergasts me, even though they are both equal in harshness, that people still find it okay to say “retard.”
I have an uncle who is mentally disabled. This is why the R-word means so much to me. Danny is a self-proclaimed comedian and has a knack for collecting things. He’s 51 and has lived with his disability since he was three months old. When Danny was an infant he contracted meningococcal meningitis. High fevers caused permanent brain damage, seizures and cerebal palsy.
Danny loves telling jokes because he likes to be the reason why people smile. He’s also very smart. Contrary to popular belief, people with mental disabilities do still have a brain and can still use it. He’s an ultimate collector, his favourite thing to collect are bread and milk clips. Having almost 350,000, he’s almost made it into the Guinness World Records.
Besides being my uncle, he’s my best friend. Not many 20-year-olds can say that about their uncles. He’s such a great listener, even though he might not know what I’m talking about, he still sits there and just listens. Every day Danny tells me a joke and even though I’ve heard the same one every day for four years, I still laugh. He can’t remember telling me the joke the day before but I don’t mind. He giggles and I laugh because his chuckle is the best sound in the world.
Danny’s cerebral palsy has gotten worse with age and he’s now very limited in what he can do. You would never know it because Danny is stubborn. Since we can’t play hide-and-go-seek, we’re stuck with trying to startle each other, the current score is Danny-18, Katrina-2.
He is one out of millions of people worldwide that live with mental disabilities. He’s a comedian, listener, ultimate collector, and peanut butter enthusiast but people don’t see that because of the label placed on him.
When the R-word is said, it affects more people than you know. In my case, I think of Danny whenever I hear it. Danny and people like him don’t deserve negative labels. They deserve understanding and appreciation for their special gifts.