An Open Letter To NW Magazine On Using The Word ‘Retarded’

To NW Magazine,

I follow your page, with a quarter of a million other people.

Today, you casually reinforced to that audience it’s acceptable to call someone ‘retarded’ as an insult.





Don’t get me wrong, I love Judd Nelson and Breakfast Club was an epic movie in its time. But previous usage does NOT equate to socially acceptable common usage. YOU are choosing to share these words in 2015, in full context from 1985.

My son has Down syndrome.

Can you see the quandary I am in?

When the R word is used as an insult, you are saying it’s the worst thing that could happen to a person. You are saying that having an intellectual disability is about as bad as it gets. In this case, you are comparing my beautiful, loving, clever, active, thoughtful, bouncing 3 yr old son to an adult who has made poor choices.

There are thousands of words you could have chosen to publish on social media instead, NW Magazine. To describe an ex, evoke some feels, get people to share your post. But you chose Retarded.

It’s not ‘just a word’. It’s a medical term no longer in usage, commandeered as an insult and about as socially acceptable as the ‘n’ word.

I’m not ‘being sensitive’. Believe me. I have thick skin. When a friend uses the word, I flinch and gently let them know I dislike that word being used. In certain social situations, once or twice I’ve even found it’s better to let it go. I’m certainly not the Political Correctness Police. However as a company, you have a paying customer audience, and I encourage that audience to think twice about purchasing magazines that propagate hate speech. I certainly won’t be buying NW, for now.

I’ve included a link or two, for your reference. I’d really appreciate you showing your social media team.

“You never know who you’re hurting. Once upon a time, I couldn’t help noticing the way that one of my good friends would flinch every time someone said, “That’s retarded.” It was like she’d been slapped. Turned out, her beloved little brother had been born with Down Syndrome – and every time someone described something worthless as “retarded”, they were describing someone she loved as worthless. Could someone you care about be wounded by your words? Are you sure you want to risk finding out?” (via

What’s wrong with “retard”? I can only tell you what it means to me and people like me when we hear it. It means that the rest of you are excluding us from your group. We are something that is not like you and something that none of you would ever want to be. We are something outside the “in” group. We are someone that is not your kind. I want you to know that it hurts to be left out here, alone.” – Joseph Franklin Stephens, Special Olympics Virginia athlete and Global Messenger (via

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