Saturday, October 10, 2009


I just wanted to clarify Al Sharpton's use of the R word in the movie Good Hair, because some readers seem to think it's possible that it wasn't used in an insulting manner.

First of all, let me say that this was a documentary and therefore did not appear to be scripted. People were interviewed and Rev. Al Sharpton was one of the people interviewed in the movie, and his comments appear to be candid.

He was talking about how the black hair industry - which apparently is HUGE business - is owned/controlled mostly by whites and asians. And what he said was something to the effect of "If blacks can't take control of an industry that caters to them and only them, that's economic retardation." I took that to be disparaging, as in "financial stupidity."

Obviously there are contexts that the R word could be used in that are not disparaging and are not used to imply stupidity or disability. Fire retardant comes to mind. Not an insult. But what the good Rev said in the movie? Disparaging.

But again, it really just made me see him as an ignorant, classless person.


ashleypmo said...

I totally agree. This was a totally inappropriate use of the word, and Sharpton should apologize.

I try to be very calm about the "R" word. Let me qualify that: If someone actually says the word "retard," I'm going to correct them. Maybe gently, maybe notsomuch....;-)
But when someone comes up to meet Mason and says something like, "Oh, my next-door-neighbor growing up was retarded, and she was such a joy," I'm not going to come unglued. I think that getting caught up in those kind of semantics only ends up making people who don't "live in my world" more hesitant to talk about it, and discourages any kind of meaningful discussion about Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities. I think we need to do all we can to encourage meaningful conversations, because people avoid what makes them uncomfortable, and we can't afford for this issue to be pushed further into the dark.

BUT there is just no room in our society for the use of the word "retarded" to mean "stupidity." AND you would think that as a member of a racial group that is often the target of slurs, Al Sharpton would realize this.
Thanks for sharing this!

Molly said...

Ok with your clarification I totally get it now. Ew. Really? He should know freaking better. What kind of example is that setting? ARGH.

When I hear anyone use the R word I think less of them immediately. Someone in his position should NOT be using terms like that. Imagine if he'd used a term derogatory towards hispanic or jewish people. People would be freaking out. He should know better. Shame on him

heidi marie said...

yah, that's pretty clear cut. it was definitely offensive. i just don't get how people who are public figures say stuff like that. it's common sense

Lisa said...

He's been "ignorant" and "classless" on a number of previous occasions/issues. Unfortunately, this doesn't surprise me (and I don't just mean from him, I mean from public figures in general). Sigh.