March 31, 2009 is the official Spread the Word to End the Word day. A campaign launched by the Special Olympics, this day is set aside for all to rethink the gratuitous use of the r-word. The latter, of course, is the use of “retard” in everyday slang. Is it a great cause or a case of hyper sensitivity in a world that thrives on political correctness?
Spread the Word to End the Word Wants to Turn “Retard” into “Respect”
With the help of the “Be Kind, Be Tolerant” animation by Phi Tran, and the 2007 High School R Word speech by Soeren Palumbo, this Special Olympics sponsored movement is gaining some momentum.
In the realm of medicine, retardation is usually considered a childhood onset disorder that affects the cognitive abilities of a growing person. Signs of retardation are heightened problems with learning to speak, solve problems, employ the memory, or function within the bounds of social interactions.
In the past, a person was named a retard when he or she fell under the old terminology designed by the early psychologists and psychiatrists who divided individuals by virtue of their IQ scores into groupings of morons, imbeciles, or idiots. Since their introduction to medicine in 1910, these terms have become part of the American slang and divorced from their original meaning.
Spread the Word to End the Word Envisions Respect
It was evident in the wake of the last presidential election that the now pejoratively used terms were flying freely, and not surprisingly those who are affected by an intellectual disability felt the injury of the words. How much more so their family members who hear the words “retard” or “retarded” bandied about with little care to the true meaning they hold!
Is Spread the Word to End the Word Similar to the NAACP N-Word Funeral?
Do you remember the NAACP‘s efforts to stop the use of the n-word? Considering it a disparagement of their members’ history and a humiliation of their communities, the organization gave the n-word a mock funeral and urged all to stop using it once and for all.
As you know, Jesse Jackson later on himself used the infamous n-word to describe Barack Obama, not only in defiance of the NAACP’s urgings but also without giving a second thought to the denigration and degradation this word causes, as suggested by the organization. If ever there was a good reason to advocate thinking before speaking, Mr. Jackson’s rant is its poster child.
Spread the Word to End the Word is a Powerful Reminder to Think before Speaking
While it is uncertain if the R-Word campaign will go the same route as the N-Word crusade, both movements underscore that the next step in societal evolution demands a commitment to thinking about the words used before speaking or emailing. Will you participate?
http://community.specialolympics.org/_Be-Kind-Be-Tolerant-Animation-by-Phi-Tran-/video/529585/82244.html; http://community.specialolympics.org/_22007-Fremd-High-School-R-Word-Speech/video/483951/82244.html; http://www.naacp.org/events/convention/98th/funeral/index.htm; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xA1A9vly0Wo