For better or for worse, I’ve gotten more and more used to the words “retard” and “retarded.” They don’t sting the way they used to. I know they are usually just careless and thoughtless, not intentional jibes at a group of human beings whose IQ is lower than average. But I still think it is worth pointing out that people who are otherwise very careful about their language–people who would never use slurs to describe racial groups or sexual orientation–nonetheless have not eradicated the “r-word” from their vocabulary.

As Michelle Diament reports

Actress Jennifer Aniston is the latest in a string of public figures to take heat for using the word “retard.”

While appearing on Live with Regis and Kelly on Thursday, Aniston was asked about a photo shoot appearing in the September issue of Harper’s Bazaar where the actress poses in styles reminiscent of iconic Barbra Streisand images.

Host Regis Philbin said, “you’re playing dress up.” Aniston replied, “Yes, I play dress up. I do it for a living, like a retard.”

Aniston later apologized, but the issue for me is how easily the word slips out. Is it because even people who want to be politically-correct don’t really care about or value individuals with developmental delays? Is it because they don’t know anyone who would qualify for the medical diagnosis of “mental retardation”? 
Careless language is exactly that care-less. I hope that Jennifer Aniston (along with Rahm Emmanuel, Rush Limbaugh, and Ben Stiller–other people in power who have used this word lately) have the opportunity to care for–and be cared for by– someone with a mental disability at some point in their lives. I can only imagine that their language will change because they will have learned to see the world differently. 
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