I actually had a family member unfriend me on Facebook once over this word. She used it in a comment to me and I simply asked her not to do it anymore because I didn't like the word. She got offended and unfriended me and stopped talking to me for a while. I honestly spoke up because 1. I DON'T like the word and wanted her not to use it, and 2. because I know others who would have jumped all over her for using it and I wanted to speak up first before that happened. It's sad how words can be so polarizing and hurtful.
If you need more convincing than what I can give, I suggest reading Meriah's post, A Simple Matter of Words, on the subject. She has some links to other really well written articles on the subject, including this one, A Word Gone Wrong, from the New York Times. My favorite excerpt from that article? REasons why the word is hurtful from someone who's felt it's affects:
Here is John Franklin Stephens, a man from Virginia with Down syndrome who serves as a “global messenger” for the Special Olympics. He has written op-ed articles giving lucid voice to thoughts you may never have heard before:
“The hardest thing about having an intellectual disability is the loneliness,” he once wrote in The Denver Post. “We are aware when all the rest of you stop and just look at us. We are aware when you look at us and just say, ‘unh huh,’ and then move on, talking to each other. You mean no harm, but you have no idea how alone we feel even when we are with you.”
“So, what’s wrong with ‘retard’?,” he asked. “I can only tell you what it means to me and people like me when we hear it. It means that the rest of you are excluding us from your group. We are something that is not like you and something that none of you would ever want to be. We are something outside the ‘in’ group. We are someone that is not your kind.”
Would you be able to look into the face of my little girl and tell her that she is "not someone of your kind"? If your answer is no then, please, stop using that word.