What You Are Really Saying When You Use The R Word
Start writing a post
Politics and Activism

What You Are Really Saying When You Use The R Word

A social worker's plea to stop using the R word.

770
What You Are Really Saying When You Use The R Word
Spread The Word To End The Word

“Well that’s retarded,” one of my male residents says as a response to when I told him about a certain policy, what it was I cannot remember as well as his response.

“You really shouldn’t say that” I answered calmly, trying my hardest not to let every ounce of my SJW side come out.

“My mom does. Whatever,” he says. Shrugging off the disgusted I look I have on face, he walked back into his room like nothing occurred.

Of course, something did just occur. That exchange is a clear cut example of ableism. You probably know all of the other “isms”; racism and sexism are the ones that seem to get all of the attention but ableism is just as detrimental to our society. Ableism is the attitude in society that limits people of different abilities. When you use the “R-word”, which is what I will use to refer to the word retarded for the rest of this piece, in a derogatory way to mean stupid, you are actually using a slur.

I can mentally hear the outcry now. “Isn’t it a medical term? So it is okay to use.” You are partially correct. Mental Retardation was a medical term used to describe people with some form of intellectual disability. However, it has been slowly phased out and replaced with the term intellectually disabled, since the colloquial use of the “R-word” has come to mean stupid. It is the same thing as saying homosexuality is a mental disorder. Yes, it was in the past, but now it is not. By claiming the “R-word” is a medical term is citing old medical knowledge, and it makes you look quite foolish.

Okay, the next response is probably “Okay so what? It’s just a word”. Actually, it’s not just a word. Like many words in our language, it has strong connotations connected to it. The R word is a synonym for stupid. By saying it, you are stereotyping all people with intellectual disabilities as such. You are insulting an entire group of people with one word and reducing them down to only one negative quality. Yeah, words are pretty powerful stuff.

You are probably wondering why I, a 20-year-old, able-bodied college student, is dedicating an entire blog post to this matter. As a social work major, I have had the amazing opportunity to work at Early Intervention, a nonprofit that helps kids with all sorts of developmental disabilities, including intellectual ones. Seeing those kids every day made me really think about my word choice and what my words actually mean.

I, of course, am not the only one who feel strongly on this subject. I have many friends and colleagues who have worked with people with intellectual disabilities and are advocates to end the use of the "R-word." I asked one friend, whom I have known since middle school, to share her thoughts on the matter. Sarah is a college student studying physical therapy and disability studies. She has strong feelings on this matter. When sitting down with her to discuss this issue, her response hits the heart of the issue.

“They (people with intellectual disabilities) are actually more intelligent than the general population. They are kind hearted and some of the best people I know. I don’t think people understand that retarded is an insult to people with disabilities for pure ignorance. It just shows huge levels of immaturity.”

Sarah echoes the sentiments of so many allies for those with intellectual disabilities. If you want to read more opinions like hers, I would highly suggest checking out Spread The Word, To End The Word. It is campaign backed by the Special Olympics to raise awareness about the issue. You can also take a pledge promising to not use the "R-word."

Now that you are better educated on this subject matter, you can work on stopping staying the word. Sure, you will slip up from time to time, everyone does, including myself. Humans are not perfect, nor should we strive to be. Yet, even trying to stop shows that you are an ally for people with intellectual disabilities. Educate your family and friends as well. When you hear them use the word, gently tell them what you now know. With better education, I am sure that we can turn the use of the "R-word" into something socially unacceptable and make the lives of those with intellectual disabilities filled with more acceptance and compassion.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Lifestyle

Founders Of Color: Rec Room's Dre Taylor On What Blackness Can Look Like And Not Working For Free

"It mattered to me that when we were depicting racial diversity for Rec Room, we showed the broad spectrum of what Blackness can look like."

Rec Room

The world of sustainable fashion is inundated with marketing gimmicks, false advertising, and large corporations cutting corners — Rec Room is the pure antithesis of that.

Keep Reading... Show less

Dunkin' just announced that they'll be releasing their fall menu earlier than ever — set to debut on August 19 — and that it'll include new menu options this season, including a new signature pumpkin spice latte. Let me just say, Starbucks has some fall-menu competition now.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

CBD Lip Balm Is The Calming Presence You Need In Your Life, Trust Me

I tried lip balm, sleep gummies, and an oil dropper from CBDistillery. Here's the final verdict.

@lilyjmoe

CBD has been on making waves within the wellness space for the last few years. Generally related to the treatment of anxiety, insomnia, and chronic pain, it's growing easier to find small CBD companies who are making products specifically designed to fit your needs. As FDA rules for CBD production can be a little hazy, it's true that not all CBD products are created equally. That's why it's important to look into the manufacturing of whatever you're deciding to try, especially if you're new to taking CBD.

As someone who has tried a variety of CBD products — some victories, some failures — I was thrilled when CBDistillery sent me a package of their favorites. They included a Broad Spectrum CBD Oil Tincture, their Nighttime Gummies, and a CBD Lip Balm.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

I Went To Disney For The First Time Since COVID-19 And It's Officially The Cleanest Place On Earth

I stopped focusing on the pandemic simply because, for the first time in months, I felt safe.

After a few months of self-quarantining, becoming suspicious of every cough, and blowing through masks like a medical school student, restrictions due to the pandemic are easing up a bit and businesses are warily reopening. While these public spaces may look the same on the outside, the way they function and operate is vastly different than a few months ago.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

5 At-Home Therapy Tips You Need, No Matter What Your Therapy Routine Is

Whether you're in a Zoom session or live-chatting, make sure your home therapy space is good to go.

No matter what stigmas you held about therapy before this year, I'm sure 2020 has affirmed that we could ALL use a nice long therapy session. Between wildfires that took over an entire continent, a global health crisis, and what's sure to be one giant circus of an election in the United States, we need help and we need it now.

The fact of the matter is, therapy has been a helpful, valid resource long before the world decided to become one giant dumpster fire. Having a safe space to discuss what's going on in your life, worries you have, and struggles you're facing has become a very normal thing for individuals' mental health.

Keep Reading... Show less

When it comes to wedding planning, each and every detail is customized to the style of the couple. From venue and decorations to food and beverages, nothing gets overlooked — whether your wedding is big, small, or virtual.

The same thing goes for invites, which are getting more and more beautiful every wedding season. If you're looking to customize your wedding invitations, the options are endless... you can add pictures if you wish, opt for fancy artwork, or keep it simple with just text).

Keep Reading... Show less
Lifestyle

23 Burning Questions We Have For The Taureans In Our Lives, Answered By A Taurus

The remaining 11 signs took the bull by the horns, and it was a fun and insightful experience!

Jordyn Leach

Lately, I've been digging deeper into astrology and studying my sign. Throughout the journey, it's come to my attention that Taurus are probably one of the most complicated signs - that is, if you're not a Taurus.

To gain a little more perspective on how my sign is viewed by the others, I requested that the participants submit a question in response to the following:

Keep Reading... Show less
Universal Pictures

A music enthusiast like myself has a playlist for every mood. Life's a movie and you're the main character. In no specific order, listen to these songs to feel on top of the world!

Pro Tip: turn your crossfade up to 3 seconds for a seamless transition between each song!

Keep Reading... Show less

It's the most wonderful time of the year again — it's sorority recruitment season! While recruitment can be a fun and memorable experience, it can also take a toll on your mental health, especially this year, considering the special circumstances brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are a few reminders to keep in your mental health toolkit during recruitment week to help keep your mental health at bay during this unique experience.

Keep Reading... Show less

We've all been there. You see that super cute guy on your dating app of choice, his bio is funny, and then, the gut-wrenching feeling hits when you see their political views don't exactly line up with yours. He loves Trump, you can't stand him, or vice versa.

A lot of people will say you can get over politics, but I know from personal experience, as well as this survey, that politics play a huge role in whether a relationship will work or if we're even willing to swipe right on that profile.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments