3 Things You Say When You Choose to Use the R-Word

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Wednesday was the annual day of awareness for the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign that aims to eliminate the demeaning use of the term “retarded”.

I made the conscious decision to eliminate the r-word from my own vocabulary back in high school. I’m 30 now, so it’s been a while. Unfortunately, before I knew better, there was a brief period of time where I’d say it casually. These days, I’m mortified that was ever the case.

I cringe when I hear other people say it. They may not use it with cruel intentions – but it’s still hurtful. And a lot of that hurt comes not just from the r-word itself – but also what you’re implying when you choose to say it.

In an effort to spread the word to those who might not know any better, I’ve come up with a list of three things you’re also saying, every time you choose to use the word “retarded”.

3 Things You Say When You Use the R-Word

  1. “I don’t think before I speak”
    Every word is a choice and every poor choice has its consequences. People may judge you, think less of you, and assume that you’re ignorant or even worse – mean! And you might not even realize it. Why chance it? Use a different word and let people know what a smart, kind, thoughtful person you are.
  2. “I have very little respect for people who are intellectually or developmentally disabled”
    Chances are, if you’re using the r-word you likely don’t know or care about anyone with a disability. If you did, you wouldn’t say it – because you would understand how upsetting it is to hear another person speak so cruelly. I have a cousin who has severe intellectual disabilities and he is one of the sweetest, funniest, most innocent people I know. He wouldn’t hurt a fly – and the thought of anyone saying a negative thing about him breaks my heart. It’s one thing to not be nice – but when you’re also not fair, that just seems like a whole new kind of wrong.
  3. “I am not creative enough to come up with a nicer, less offensive, more interesting word.”
    There are literally hundreds of words you can use instead of the r-word. If you need some suggestions, the popular website Upworthy created this graphic to illustrate a few of the options.

So there you have it, three things you’re saying to me (and countless others) every time you choose to use the r-word. Whether you knew it or not – and whether you meant to or not, it’s being said.

The good news is, it’s never too late to start choosing better, kinder words. And if you’re already on board with not saying it, you can still take the pledge to help spread the word to end the word here.

Just think, if everyone who reads this post convinces one person to be more thoughtful with their word selection, the world will undoubtedly be a much better, kinder place.

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