A campaign against using the R-word encourages students to think before they offend

State Hornet Staff

Everyone was taught the phrase “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me,”  but it turns out that this statement is not true. 

Growing up with a physical disability, I got my fair share of taunting but that word always sticks out to me. “Retarted” was something that, luckily, I never got called, but many others have. Students use this word to describe a friend’s blunder or an unexpected test growing up and this type of misuse of a strong word needs to stop. 

“It does not represent people with disabilities at all and shouldnot ever be used,” said junior recreational therapy major Jenny Zimmer. 

There are other words to use. Using a word, such as retarded, only shows how limited that person’s vocabulary is and nothing about the person it is being used to describe. Unfortunately, because many people do not know the connotation or the history behind the word, they use it carelessly. 

“I hear it being used around campus a little, but then once I tell people what it means they stop and think about it,”  Zimmer said. 

On the website R-Word, dedicated to pledging not to use the word “retarted” in a demeaning way,  the history of the word is described in detail:

“When the term was originally introduced, the terms ‘mental retardation’ or ‘mentally retarded’ were medical terms with specific clinical connotation…when ‘retard’ or ‘retarded’ are used as synonyms for ‘dumb’ or ‘stupid’, it only reinforces painful stereotypes of people with intellectual disabilities being less valued members of society.”  

By telling someone they are retarded you are telling them they are valued less than the rest of the world. All because they messed up on a word or tripped over nothing. People throw around the word at meaningless slip ups done throughout the day and they never stop to think about what they are actually saying. 

If people knew the history behind the word, and the fights that have gone in within the disabled community to not only ban that word, I do not think they would use it. 

The history of the word goes as far back as the 13th or 15th century and was first used to describe anyone with any type of mental disability. It was a broad generalization, like it has become currently, to describe anybody that a person thought was beneath them or not worth their time. 

These are people who struggle to do simple tasks and rejoice when they achieve minor accomplishments, but more importantly, these are people who need your support – not to be marginalized or made fun of.

Next time you want to call someone a name, remember those names have meanings. And as the old saying goes, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”