Opinion: End the word

The use of abelist slurs such as the “R” word are harmful and should not be said anymore


Kyla Henige

During the week of Feb. 28, Warrior Buddies is leading a special spirit week aimed to “End the Word.” The R-slur is a word that people should have stopped using long ago.

Bri Quast, Staff Writer

Teenagers are very familiar with the “R” slur. It is a derogatory term prevalent throughout social media, and everyday conversation. It is safe to bet even if teenagers don’t use the “R” slur themselves, they hear other people saying it a couple times a day at the least. It’s so normalized nowadays, and while there is a negative connotation that goes along with it, most people ignore it and use it anyway because all their friends do, and that needs to stop.

People use the word to describe something or someone they think is inferior to them; they’ll use it to describe something dumb or someone they think is acting stupid. People will often say, “this is so r——d,” or “you’re acting like a r—-d.”

At one point in time “mental retardation” was the medical term used to describe a person with an intellectual or developmental disability, but Obama signed a bill in 2010 that replaced the term with “intellectual disability,” seeing as it is used in such a negative context all the time. However, while the term has changed, people still shouldn’t use the word as a slur, even if time has changed it’s meaning since it was used to describe people with disabilities. It is on us for continuing to put the word in such a negative light by using it in such a derogatory way. 

The “R” word is harmful. Using the slur is wholly ignorant to those with intellectual and developomental disabilities, as it’s literally saying that they’re stupid, which is ableist in itself. Ableism is when you view yourself in a higher light than those with disabilities. If you’re using the R-word to describe something or someone you think is acting stupid, then you’re mind is open to the idea that a person with disabilties is stupid, and less than you. 

“When saying the R-word, what we mean is that he is as stupid as someone who is mentally handicapped, and we mean that in the most derogatory sense. The implication is that the only characteristic of mentally handicapped individuals is their stupidity,” says an advocate of Spread the Word: Inclusion, an organization that asks people to take action in including people with special needs in their school, community, or workplace. 

The world needs to stop associating this word to things and people they view as dull-witted, mindless, and slow, or to describe things they just don’t like in general. If you believe people with disabilities are more than how this word frequently describes them then you would stop using it. People act like people with disabilities don’t carry the awareness to understand how this word is being used, and so forth it doesn’t affect them, but they are more aware then you know. 

In the article, “The effects of the R world,” Josh Franklin Stephens, a Special Olypmics Virginia athlete and global messenger says, “It hurts and scares me when I am the only person with intellectual disabilities on the bus and young people start making ‘retard’ jokes or references.” He adds, “Please put yourself on that bus and fill the bus with people who are different from you. Imagine that they start making jokes using a term that describes you. It hurts and it is scary.”

People excuse its use, saying it’s just another one of those harsh terms used to ridicule something and put it down, like a swear word. It’s not like they’re actually calling people with disabilities stupid by using it anyway, how could it be harmful towards them when it’s not even being directed towards them? Nothing’s going to change by not using it because it’s just another word, so why give so much extra meaning to it? 

You not saying this word may not impact the world, but it will impact the community around you — and it will reveal who you are as a person. At the end of the day, you have to be the one to decide what using this word reflects on your character. Just remember how much more it’s saying then just calling one of you’re friends stupid, or calling something you don’t like dumb. It may not take anything to keep saying this word, but keep in mind it doesn’t take anything to stop using it too.

“What’s wrong with ‘”retard”?’” says Stephens,“ I can only tell you what it means to me and people like me when we hear it. It means that the rest of you are excluding us from your group. We are something that is not like you and something that none of you would ever want to be. We are something outside the “in” group. We are someone that is not your kind. I want you to know that it hurts to be left out here, alone.” 

Some of the time the “R” word does get lost in translation, and people don’t fully understand the harm they’re causing by saying it, as nobody took the time to explain it to them. If you’re reading this, and this is new information to you, it is up to you to decide how you’re going to interpret this article. At the end of the day is saying this word really meaningful enough to you to look past the fact that it verbally degrades people with disabilities?