Why the “R-Word” Should Be Eliminated From Our Vocabulary

Retard. The way this word rolls off people’s tongues makes my blood boil. The way people use it as an insult or joke and slur it so casually makes me snap. Why this word remains ingrained in society’s vocabulary today boggles my mind.

Whether you have said it or not, we have all heard the phrase “that’s retarded” or have heard someone call someone else a “retard,” especially used as a joke. The “r-word” equates disabilities with “dumb” and is such a negatively connotated word. Disabilities are conditions; not a reason to insult or label as “retarded.”

The word “retard” originated as a medical term to describe those with developmental or intellectual disabilities, and has now augmented into an everyday word used as an insult, hate speech, and offensive term with so many derogatory connotations. Words carry meaning, as is why we use them. However, the use of the “r-word” must be eliminated.

While awareness of the harm its use brings has increased, the word has certainly not vanished from society’s vocabulary. And I don’t expect it to entirely. Words are permanent; once used, they stick. But to make the change of not using the “r-word” stick, habits must be recognized and therefore broke.

Organizations such as the Special Olympics and even the U.S. government have recognized its use and have even taken action in eliminating the word’s use. The Special Olympics created the “R-Word Campaign” in 2004 to raise awareness of the offensiveness the word connotes. And further, the U.S. government unanimously passed Rosa’s Law in 2010, a requirement that all laws and documents use the term “intellectual disability” rather than “mental retardation.” Awareness and changes have been made on a grander scale, however the change of its use within society begins with your own use. Recognize and make the change yourself first.

Recognize the “r-word” hurts. Recognize the “r-word” is a label. Recognize the offensiveness in its use. And most of all, recognize and acknowledge when it slips out of yours or another’s mouth. The “r-word” carries so many negative connotations as do so many words. Words have power. So why should a disability be associated with such a powerful, derogatory word such as “retard”?

Recognize that every human deserves respect. Break the habit. Make the change to eliminate the “r-word” starting with your own vocabulary.

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