Examining the Damaging Impact of the "R-Word"

By Sarah Chrisien on January 26, 2015

source: http://notenoughgood.com

“That’s retarded.”

How many times a day do you or someone you know use this phrase in casual conversation? More importantly, how often do you take the time to consider the impact that it has?

I have an aunt. She is funny and full of personality, and she has left a positive impact on so many people with her humorous, easy-to-please nature. She is also mentally disabled.

Growing up with her in my family has taught me so much about acceptance, patience, tolerance, and the immense value that can be found in the special needs community. However, I have also learned how narrow-minded and ill-informed people can be towards those who are different from them.

When people describe something that they consider stupid or trivial as “retarded,” they don’t often realize the implications in their words. In the past, “retarded” was a word used to describe someone who had a mental disability.

Nowadays, the word has been so generalized that I hear people use it to describe anything from their malfunctioning laptop to an unfair homework assignment. Overall, this outdated and offensive term minimizes the worth of people with special needs and equates them to something undesirable or unimportant.

I realize that people don’t usually use this term with actual malice or bad intent. However, I believe that if people took the time to consider the impact that it has, they would think twice before using it.

In the past, when I have spoken out in protest against the “R-word,” I’ve gotten many responses, varying from “It’s no big deal” to “Well, it’s not hurting anyone.”

I can assure you that it is a big deal, and it hurts so many people. When you refer to something as “retarded,” you not only sound ignorant, but you are insulting my aunt and everyone in the special needs community.

The perpetuating misuse of the “R-word” in today’s day and age is inexcusable. The amazing variety of the English language should allow everyone to find alternatives to their vocabulary that don’t have such damaging implications.

My hope for the future is that this ugly term will be eradicated altogether, and those with disabilities will be given the respect and consideration that they deserve. Because when you don’t think before you speak, the only thing you are insulting is yourself.

*For more information on how to “spread the word to end the word,” visit http://www.r-word.org.

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