Stop Using The R-Word

Stop Using The R-Word

Rather than distancing ourselves from the true meaning of "retard," we must humanize individuals with disabilities.

Retard. Gay. Slut. Our language's vernacular is embedded with slurs such as these, used on a daily basis without regard to what they denote. These terms are used thoughtlessly, in a derogatory and offensive manner, to put people down. The term "retarded" has become so standard that even intelligent and thoughtful people use it to describe something as stupid or senseless. Our society is so accustomed to using the term that we do not even realize its effect.

Two summers ago, I had one of the most uplifting and eye-opening experiences of my life. I worked as a counselor at Camp Starfish, a summer camp for children with mental, behavioral, and emotional difficulties. Living with these campers for three months opened my eyes to their daily struggles; yet, the strength and positivity they radiated through their difficulties blew me away. They are some of the most inspirational, loving individuals I have ever met. It breaks my heart to imagine anyone hurting or victimizing any of them. Why do we employ a term used to describe their medical issues in such a derogatory, demeaning manner?

The problem is that people forget that the term they are using is the equivalent of a racial or gender slur. You mean to hurt the person or thing you are describing, but do you really mean to perpetuate this negative stereotype? There are literally hundreds of other terms you can use to describe a bothersome stimulus, so steer clear of this one. Rather than distancing ourselves from the true meaning of "retard," we must humanize individuals with disabilities and recognize that the use of the term is personally deprecating. You inadvertently categorize these people into a singular group, founded upon stereotypes, prejudice, and inequality. Whether you realize it or not, there are individuals in this world who look up to you. Is this the message we want to be delivering to future generations? Children in schools are running around calling each other "retarded" without recognizing the effect that language has. And those who fall into this category of special needs are given the message that it is an insult to be someone like them. Think about the effect that has on a child's self-worth as they attempt to grow up in a society that inadvertently affronts them.

There is such a strong stigma surrounding mental illness, and the callous use of this term is only furthering this effect. Individuals fear being diagnosed with any sort of mental difficulty because it makes them feel different and less worthy. Using the word "retarded" in a belittling manner is only perpetuating that stigma. The use of this term is directly making other individuals feel like lesser human beings. Is this really what you want your impact to be on this world? According to the new Diagnostic and Statistics Manual, 46.4 percent of Americans will have diagnosable mental illnesses in their lifetimes. That's almost half of our population. Just because a developmental disability does not manifest physically, it does not mean an individual does not have an issue, so if you think you can monitor your use of the term around those not impacted, think again.

Still not convinced? Imagine the case of a deaf, blind, or paralyzed individual. Would you use their disabilities in terms of insults? To put it into perspective, try replacing the term "retarded" with "handicapped" and see what happens. Imagine your child, your sibling, or your parent struggling with a mental difficulty, and through it all being surround by people with the r-word on their lips. And if you make the argument that we all have the right to free speech, and you're not "saying it offensively," then you are missing the point. This is not about political correctness or your right to free speech. It's about respect, thoughtfulness, and humanity. It's about erasing ignorance from our society and recognizing the hardships that these individuals go through. Individuals with mental difficulties experience an entirely different world—yet they emerge just as successful as those without that handicap. To overcome all they have to and still have a positive outlook on life? There's nothing derogatory about that. It's honorable.

I recently took the pledge to spread the word to end the word. You can too, just click here. Trust me, you'll be glad you did.

Cover Image Credit: Boston Globe

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17 Empowering Bible Verses For Women

You go, girl.

We all have those days where we let the negative thoughts that we're "not good enough," "not pretty enough" or "not smart enough" invade our minds. It's easy to lose hope in these situations and to feel like it would be easier to just give up. However, the Bible reminds us that these things that we tell ourselves are not true and it gives us the affirmations that we need. Let these verses give you the power and motivation that you're lacking.

1. Proverbs 31:25

"She is clothed with strength and dignity and she laughs without fear of the future."

2. Psalm 46:5

"God is within her, she will not fall."

3. Luke 1:45

"Blessed is she who believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her."

4. Proverbs 31:17

"She is energetic and strong, a hard worker."

5. Psalm 28:7

"The Lord is my strength and my shield."

6. Proverbs 11:16

"A gracious woman gains respect, but ruthless men gain only wealth."

7. Joshua 1:9

"Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."

8. Proverbs 31:30

"Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised."

9. 1 Corinthians 15:10

"By the grace of God, I am what I am."

10. Proverbs 31:26

"When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness."

11. Psalm 139:14

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made."

12. 1 Peter 3:3-4

"Don't be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God."

13. Colossians 2:10

"And in Christ you have been brought to fullness."

14. 2 Timothy 1:7

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline."

15. Jeremiah 29:11

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' says the Lord. 'They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.'"

16. Exodus 14:14

"The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm."

17. Song of Songs 4:7

"You are altogether beautiful, my darling, beautiful in every way."

Next time you're feeling discouraged or weak, come back to these verses and use them to give you the strength and power that you need to conquer your battles.

Cover Image Credit: Julia Waterbury

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A Second Person Has Achieved Long-Term Remission Of The HIV Virus

A second man has had long term remission of the HIV virus.


Over a decade after the first man, known as the Berlin Patient, was declared HIV-free, another patient may also be cured. Though it's too early for scientists to say for sure, the London Patient has been in a long term remission for around 18 months without the help of medication. Both men were treated with a bone marrow transplant. However, these stem cells carried a rare mutation in the genes that affect the production of the CCR5 protein, which HIV viruses latch onto to enter the cell. The virus cannot latch onto the mutated version of the protein, thus blocking its entry into the cells.

With the transplant of these HIV resistant genes, the body effectively builds a new immune system free of the virus.

After the Berlin Patient went into remission, scientists tried and failed to replicate the cure and were unable to until the London Patient, whose HIV count has reduced into undetectable numbers. While this is extremely helpful, bone marrow transplants are not a viable option to cure all HIV infected people, as it is an extremely risky process and comes with many side effects. Even so, scientists are developing ways to extract bone marrow from HIV infected people, genetically modifying them to produce the same mutations on the CCR5 gene or the inability to express that gene at all, and then replacing it back into the patient so they can still build resistance without the negative effects of a bone marrow transplant. There have also been babies whose genomes have been edited to remove the CCR5 gene, allowing them to grow up resistant to HIV.

This does not eliminate the threat of the HIV virus, however.

There is another strand of the virus, called X4, that uses the CXCR4 protein to enter the cell. Even if the editing of the CCR5 allows immunity against one strand, it is possible for a person to be infected with the X4 strand of the virus. Despite this, immunization against one strand could save a countless number of lives, as well as the vaccine that is currently in the stages of development for HIV. Along with the London Patient, there are 37 other patients who have received bone marrow transplants, six of which from donors without the mutation.

Of these patients, number 19, known as the Dusseldorf Patient, has been off anti-HIV drugs for 4 months. It may not be a complete cure, but it is definitely a step in the right direction.

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