Spread the Word to End the Word
By: Laura Green
This month Spread The Word to End The Word day was on March 2nd, 2016, but schools have been doing everything they can to raise awareness about STWTETW all throughout the month of March. From taking the pledge online to coordinating in-school activities, student leaders have worked tirelessly to end the use of the very hurtful and derogatory term “retarded”. Best Buddies participants are very passionate about this time of the year, as this word is still used every day. The people who use this word are usually just very unaware of the history behind the word and the population of people that it hurts.
They don’t know that this word was used several years ago as a diagnosis of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. People with disabilities were ostracized from society and thrown into mental health institutions, and sometimes never saw their family again. The use of this word detriments all the work of the Disability Rights Movement, and how far the treatment of people with disabilities has come since then.
The r-word is actually considered hate speech, and as of Rosa’s Law, which was signed in 2010 by President Obama, the r-word is no longer allowed to be used in medical practices or in federal law. If doctors and law makers cannot use this word anymore, what gives us the right to say it? The word holds nothing more or less than a negative connotation.
The use of the word “retarded” also demeans a person with a disability down to one hateful word. It takes away all that they are- a friend, a sister, a dancer, an athlete, an employee-and diminishes who they are down to a single word. It insinuates that they are disabled, and therefore aren’t anything else besides that. The r-word is also used as an insult, as many of us have probably heard someone say it as a synonym for stupid or ridiculous. The bottom line is, no matter what the dictionary definition of the r-word is or what the word was originally intended to mean, that is not the meaning of it anymore. A population of people has kindly asked us to stop using this word to define them, and we owe it to them to recognize them as individuals who all have something to offer and contribute to this world.
Student leaders in Best Buddies during STWTETW not only get asked several questions about the movement to end the r-word, but also sometimes face adversity and ignorance by people who may not know someone with a disability and simply don’t understand the severity of this word. On behalf of the YLC, we thank you for your work to raise awareness and educate about the r-word throughout this month, as your work helps our mission of inclusion and ending stigma around people with disabilities in society. There is an estimated 1,025,109.8 words in the English language- we can do without one of them.