The Anatomy of a Slur

A reader writes in about yesterday's Iron Man thread:

Dear Mr. Coates: 

You make no mention of how demeaning it is to use the word retarded. No mention of how that word mocks people with special needs and disabilities. I expect so much more from you and the Atlantic. Shameful. Bet you don't use other slurs. Why give the word retarded a pass? 

You shouldn't have to be a parent of a child with special needs to get what I am saying.

I know there's been a bit of a row over whether people should stop saying the word retarded or not. My basic position is simple--if a name I've been using to describe a broad group, offends that group, I'll stop using it. I think self-naming is sacred.

Yesterday, I saw a quote from comments I wanted to use. I saw "retarded" and it threw up a red flag for me, but I thought it was wrong to scrub the comment. And then I thought having used the comment, it was wrong to go into a lecture on offensive words.

On reflection, the best way to do the post would probably have been to not quote, but just make the point I wanted to make. It was wrong of me to use the quote. It's worth noting that OneDrop (the original commenter) apologized in comments. I'll join him and offer my own apology for the offense.