We've all heard that words have power so know their meaning. Little people are no longer called dwarfs. Asians are people and Oriental is applied to things like food and rugs. And I think we can all agree about the meaning behind the n-word even before the Paula Deen fallout. White people can't use the word. Ever. No exceptions.
Congress phased out the term retarded in 2010 and yet the word is still widely used. In fairness, most people aren't current on the legislative agenda and oftentimes the vernacular is changed through hearsay. But that was nearly three years ago. There's no doubt that I have a heightened awareness and am protective because of my son who’s been called a retard. Fortunately, he doesn't understand the meaning and now it's my job to stop it from recirculating.
I'm surprised when people who should know better still use the word casually. My oldest son told me his friend's mother says it and, worse, my daughter's fourth-grade teacher used it in front of her class. I shudder at the children, an impressionable audience, she's influencing. How did both women, mothers and educators, miss the lesson on social sensitivity?
"When you know better you do better," according to Maya Angelou. I can only hope the people using the word follow her words of wisdom so the rest of us don't wince at their ignorance.