Spread the Word to End the Word

The first Wednesday of March marks the annual day for Spread the Word to End the Word.

The campaign aims to raise consciousness about the hurtful effects of the word “retarded”. It encourages individuals to make the pledge to stop using the R-word in order to make the world a better place for all.

I made this pledge my senior year after I started mentoring in our high school’s room for students with disabilities. I learned compassion and empathy from those students that initially led me to pursue my passion in volunteering.

The R-word isn’t just an offensive and derogatory term; it almost shows a lack of vocabulary and sentience. Many people don’t realize the impact of words they choose, but words do hurt.  Also, the term “mental retardation” is going instinct. You should never refer to someone with an intellectual disability by saying “that retard” or “the handicap kid”.

How do those words not make you feel squeamish when you say them? It’s literally like nails on the chalkboard to me.

A more appropriate way would be to say “the person with an intellectual disability” or simply just call them by their name. They are people just like us. They have feelings. They have a sense of understanding and want to be part of the conversation just as much as you do.

My advice to those who do use the R-word to describe situations that are “stupid” or trying to make a funny punchline is to simply open up a book and enhance your vocabulary. Use words like ignorant, foolish, absurd or obtuse to describe an uneasy situation. A thesaurus will come in handy for you as you continue to progress through life. 

It’s 2017, our culture shouldn’t be so focused on people’s nationality, sexual orientation, religious preference or number of chromosomes that one has. Being different shouldn’t automatically label you as an outsider. We shouldn’t neglect these individuals; we should embrace their individuality. We, as a society, need to recognize that we have to stop marginalizing others who don’t share the same features as us.

That way of thinking is just poisoning our world.

I advise you to take a few minutes out of your schedule today to truly think about how simple it is to remove such an unpleasant word from your daily lives. I’m not asking you to rush to volunteer at your local living facility for people with disabilities, but more importantly just become more aware of the situation around you.

You can sign the pledge at http://www.r-word.org