There’s a word you probably heard it on the playground when you were a kid, tossed around like any other insult. “Stop acting so retarded.”
You may have used it yourself to refer to something stupid or something you didn’t want to do. “I hate this homework, why do I need to learn this? Math is retarded.”
You may have even used it to refer to a person with a disability. But why use it at all?
The first Wednesday of March, every year, Best Buddies and the Special Olympics sponsor the Spread the Word to End the Word awareness day. It’s a cause close to my heart. Many people, especially those of us who grew up with the r-word as part of their everyday speech, don’t realize just how hurtful this word is. The term “Mentally Retarded” began as a medical term, but over the years, the r-word has become a synonym for so many things, all with a negative connotation. I’ve heard it used in so many places where another word would work just as well, if not better.
To be honest, I don’t even like typing the word, much less saying it aloud. It’s hurtful to anyone, especially someone with a disability. It’s hurtful to them and to the family and friends that care about them. It really should be offensive to you.
I started to write more about why this is so important to me, but to be honest, words fail me. So many other people have said it more eloquently than I ever could. I highly recommend this post on The Mighty, for one.
So today, I challenge you. I challenge you to stop using the r-word. I challenge you correct others when they use it. Think before you speak.
For more information on Spread the Word to End the Word and to take the pledge, head over to http://www.r-word.org/.