There are very few words that I absolutely cannot stand but the one at the tippy top of my list is any variation of the word retarded.
I was very lucky to go to a high school where retarded was not part of students vocabulary. On multiple occasions our student body would sign banners and partake in pep rallies and other various awareness-informing events to “End the 'R-Word.'” My high school played a huge role in the worldwide Special Olympics with various clubs, organizations and fundraisers held by the students. But the biggest stand out to me was our schools integration with special needs kids. Regardless of a special need, all students were treated as equals. We would take classes together, cheer on sporting events together and go to prom together.
The word retarded was not a part of our vocabulary.
Using the word retarded wouldn’t cross our minds.
Hearing the word retarded never happened.
But then I got to college, and that changed. Retarded is thrown around on a regular basis without a second thought about it.
“Oh my god, she was retarded last night at the party.”
“That test was retarded.”
“I can’t believe how retarded I was acting in front of that boy.”
“You’re so retarded.”
“Why do you look like a retard?”
“What’s up retard?”
“Stop being such a retard.”
A lot of students don’t even realize that their use of the r-word isn’t okay; but it is not okay, it is hurtful.
I do not care who you are; you do not use the word retarded, period.
But if you do I will say something, just as I would expect from anyone other respectful, sympathetic and overall good hearted human.
Do you realize that humans with special needs are humans too?
Do you realize how people with special needs would feel if they heard you use retarded in any context related to those above, or any at all for that matter?
Do you realize how people with special needs cannot help the way they were born?
Do you realize that there is absolutely nothing that makes a special need a negative thing?
Do you realize there is nothing wrong with having a special need in the first place?
Do you realize that you sound utterly uneducated using the word retarded?
Do you need more of a reason not to use the r-word?
Do you need a list of alternative words to use that will better represent the point you are trying to make in an educated and humanistic way other than retarded?
Then go to thesaurus.com and find one.
Please take a second to read these quotes from the r-word.org and take emphasis on the title of each speaker:
“What’s wrong with "retard"? 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. I want you to know that it hurts to be left out here, alone.”
– Joseph Franklin Stephens, Special Olympics Virginia athlete and Global Messenger
“The word retard is considered hate speech because it offends people with intellectual and developmental disabilities as well as the people that care for and support them. It alienates and excludes them. It also emphasizes the negative stereotypes surrounding people with intellectual and developmental disabilities; the common belief that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities should be segregated, hidden away from society, which, in my opinion, is really old fashioned.”
– Karleigh Jones, Special Olympics New Zealand athlete
“I don’t think you understand how much you hurt others when you hate. And maybe you don’t realize that you hate. But that’s what it is; your pre-emptive dismissal of them [people with intellectual disabilities], your dehumanization of them, your mockery of them, it’s nothing but another form of hate. It’s more hateful than racism, more hateful than sexism, more hateful than anything.”
– Soeren Palumbo, student, advocate, brother to a sister with an intellectual disability.
My hope is that this article will push readers to stand up for all humans that are impacted by or are special need people. My hope is that if you hear someone use the r-word, you will say something. My hope is that we can all come together and realize that a special need does not define a person and does not make a person any less of a person.
Spread the Word to End the Word.
In conclusion, I would like to give a special shout out to my high school for teaching me to love and respect all humans and to live as one integrated community despite a special need or not. Thank you Orono High School for proving to me that a special need is nothing but another beautiful, un-defining characteristic of a human being.
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