Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Spread the Word to End the Word

Just yesterday a teacher and I were talking about a student who needed a lengthy explanation why it was not OK to label something "retarded" and use that term in public. Today is the fifth annual “day of awareness,” a national campaign to stop the use of the word “retarded” and its variants. As a medical label for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, the R-word used to be neutral, clinical, incapable of giving offense. But words are mere vessels for meaning, and this one has long since been put to other uses.
“Retarded” and “retard” today are variations on a slur. Young people especially like it: as a weapon of derision, it does the job. It’s sharp, with a potency that words like “moron” and “idiot” lost sometime in the days of black-and-white TV.
The campaign against it, called “Spread the Word to End the Word,” is heartfelt and earnest in a way that makes it vulnerable to ridicule. If you or someone you care about has intellectual disabilities you would not want to hear this label used.  Like all labels, the R word hurts.  
“Once you label me you negate me.”
Søren Kierkegaard

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