Eminem is still using the word 'retarded' — why that's an issue

Eminem and Beyoncé’s brand-new song, “Walk on Water,” uses a very dated word: retarded.

The pair’s song, which was released in November, will be featured on the rapper’s ninth album, titled Revival, and features Bey singing the hook, “I walk on water, but I ain’t no Jesus/ I walk on water, but only when it freezes.”

Eminem then launches into a tirade about the pressures of fame, which includes the following lyric:

“God’s given me all this, still I feel no different regardless
Kids look to me as a God, this is retarded
If only they knew, it’s a façade and it’s exhaustive.”

The lyric has not been a hit on social media — and Beyoncé isn’t off the hook.

The controversial rapper has used the word in the past — in 1997, he released the song “4 Verses” with the lyric:

“Met a retarded kid named Greg, with a wooden leg
Snatched it off and beat him over the f***ing head with the peg”

And Eminem isn’t the only one — rappers Tyler the Creator, Wiz Khalifa, and Future have all sung it.

The word “retard” is derived from the former diagnostic term “mental retardation,” now defined as “intellectual disability,” according to Margaret Nygren, the executive director and CEO of the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

“The word ‘retard’ is a slur and used to describe people without dignity,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Over time, as language evolved and we gained a better understanding of the human condition, we named it ‘intellectual disability,’ the term now recognized on a federal and state level.”

For a person to have an intellectual disability, that individual must meet three criteria. “There have to be substantial limitations in intellectual functioning (which we assess using an IQ test) and adaptive functioning, which means feeding, clothing, and generally keeping yourself safe,” says Nygren. “The limitations also must be present during the developmental years of childhood or prenatally.”

There’s not one clear source for intellectual disability but rather a variety: genetics, exposure to toxins in the environment or the womb, birth injuries such as a loss of oxygen, or social deprivations, for example, a highly restrictive childhood.

The best course of treatment for people with an intellectual disability is intervention from a young age and educational and social support. “With that, people can lead high-quality lives,” says Nygren. “Mocking them doesn’t contribute to the ideals of society.”

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