What’s Up with the New York Times’ Ethicist Using the R-Word as an Insult?

What’s Up with the New York Times’ Ethicist Using the R-Word as an Insult? November 21, 2013


Amy Julia Becker has a great article about something that happened in the New York Times recently.

Last week, Kari Wagner-Peck wrote, in an open letter to Chuck Klosterman, the New York Times’ ethicist:

Today people with cognitive disabilities and their allies are asking members of society to refrain from using the word “retarded” (along with all mutations of the word) for the same exact reasons. My question to you:

Is it ethical to contribute to the denigration of the vulnerable?

She goes on to document three cases in which Mr. Klosterman mocked people with intellectual disabilities using the r-word, in 2002, 2008, and 2010. Here’s one example:

“You used to be able to tell the difference between hipsters and homeless people. Now, it’s between hipsters and retards. I mean, either that guy in the corner in orange safety pants holding a protest sign and wearing a top hat is mentally disabled or he is the coolest fucking guy you will ever know.” (New York Magazine, 2008)

I’m guessing you’re with me here. Mr. Klosterman had some explaining, and perhaps some repenting, to do. (See below for his commendable response.) It’s problematic for anyone to use this type of language, and even more so when you are the ethicist for the New York Times.

But here’s the really sad thing. He’s not alone.

Read the rest of Amy Julia’s article here.

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