Since I have been following the Down syndrome community, I have noticed two linguistic crusades running through it. One is about "People First Language" and the other is about the "r-word". I realized that I don't feel the same about these 2 themes.
I get that the "r-word" should be eradicated from polite society, just as other slurs are. It is offensive to use the words "retard" or "retarded" as an insult. Intentionally or not, it evokes images of people with intellectual disabilities and equates them with something bad and objectionable.
"People First Language", however, is different. I see that more as "call people the way they wish to be called," just as we refer to other groups as "African Americans" or "Native Americans" if that is their preference, we should call people with Trisomy 21 "People with Down syndrome" rather than "Downs people". However, it is not a slur to refer to them as "Downs people", any more than it is a slur to refer to African Americans as "Blacks" or "Colored" even as "Negroes". It is possible to speak respectfully and affectionately about people using non-standard terminology, as long as it is not offensive the way that the n-word and the r-word are. It is even possible to prefer non-standard terminology, for a variety of reasons. I have a bi-racial friend who refers to herself as "Colorful". Here is a persuasive argument against PFL from the inside.
What do you think?