Check out this enlightening post from a few years ago about how your choice of words can be used to cause serious damage - Words Hurt from Thursday, September 6, 2012
Spread the Word to End the Word is an on-going effort to raise the consciousness of society about the dehumanizing and hurtful effects of the word "retard(ed)" and encourage people to pledge to stop using the R-word. The campaign is intended to get schools, communities and organizations to rally and pledge their support to help create communities of inclusion and acceptance for all people.
I know that you all likely hear others use this word in a derogatory way, perhaps you use it yourself... reconsider your choice of words. You can use the following dialogue sample to help you feel comfortable confronting others about their use of the r-word.
From the R-Word website:
Dialogue Scenario 1: When a friend/family member uses the R-word
Person 1: I am such a retard; I forgot to get milk at the grocery store.
Person 2: Hey, I would appreciate it if you didn’t use the word retard around me anymore.
Person 1: Oh don’t worry about it; it’s not a big deal.
Person 2: It actually is a big deal, when you use retard as a synonym for stupid or idiot, you are saying that all people with intellectual disabilities are stupid, and that’s definitely not true.
Person 1: But I’m not making fun of people who are mentally retarded, it’s just a figure of speech. It’s how I talk.
Person 2: The thing is, when you use the R-word as slang, you really are hurting people with intellectual disabilities because of the negative connotation of your comment. The R-word has been associated with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities since its inception, so when you use the word in a negative context, you’re putting down people with intellectual disabilities, regardless of if you mean to or not.
Person 1: I appreciate what you’re saying, but it’s imbedded into my vocabulary. I couldn’t stop saying it if I tried.
Person 2: I’m not trying to tell you what you can or cannot say, but what I want you to recognize is that people with intellectual disabilities deserve respect, and using another word instead of the R-word is one step towards making them feel respected and valued in society.
Person 1: Ok, I can understand it might be hurtful to use the word when a person with an intellectual disability is around, but why does it matter now, when I’m just hanging out and joking with my friends?
Person 2: Using the R-word doesn’t just hurt people with intellectual disabilities, but it also hurt their friends and families. [Discuss personal story about why this is important to you]. Having seen the hurt that the R-word can cause, I know it’s important for me to take a stand and try to change the conversation. I hope you can understand why it hurts and upsets me when the R-word is used and why I would appreciate if you chose another word to use.
Person 1: I’m sorry; I didn’t realize how much the R-word upset you. I will try to use another word instead.
Person 2: Thank you for understanding.
Tips for a successful conversation:
- Stay calm and collected, it will not help the other person see your point if you are angry and emotional.
- Try to understand the reason he/she disagrees with you. Listen, be respectful and then provide a counterargument that highlights the harmful and hurtful effects of using the R-word.
- Share a personal story about why the R-word is hurtful to you. Personal stories will help people more easily relate to what you are saying because it illustrates your personal commitment to the campaign.
If you encounter a question you are unable to answer, direct the individual to the Spread the Word to End the Word website (www.r-word.org) to learn more about the campaign, Special Olympics and Best Buddies.