Today is the annual Spread The Word To End The Word Campaign day, and I am all about encouraging people to take the pledge. The campaign asks people to remove the r-word from their everyday vocabulary and encourages those who take the pledge to help spread the word of their mission with others. We live in a society where having an opinion is often an automatic right to discount the opinions and feelings of others and, essentially, where compassion is lost in a cloud of arrogance. Let this not be a lecture. Let this be a simple message.
These days people are often accused of being over sensitive. Words and phrases are sometimes used without consideration of how those words may affect those around them. After all, isn’t it much easier to just accuse someone of being over sensitive than it is to acknowledge that we may have been responsible for offending someone else in the first place? Sure.
There are a number of ways these scenarios play out when someone uses words like retarded. Some people just let it go; wishing they had the perfect way to respond to someone or wishing they were brave enough to speak up…(typically me). Others confront the situation head-on and let someone know that their words hurt and that they did not like it. Either way, it stings.
When confronted, the response from people who use the r-word varies which can further complicate the situation. They are those who unintentionally used it and would feel terrible knowing it offended someone. Those who insist they didn’t mean like so and so. Those who hear what you have to say, but suspect you’re just being dramatic. And those who refuse to let their free speech rights be taken away by a bunch of whiners. *Sigh*
If choosing another word is so simple, why do we have a campaign each year asking people to simply do so? This brings out the real question…why should people choose another word?
Sometimes we need a reminder to be considerate, courteous, compassionate and polite. It literally costs nothing to be kind. The world could use a lot more of that right now. Small changes like removing the r-word from our vocabulary helps create an inclusionary and accepting attitude of all individuals and it helps support the notion that everyone deserves respect.
Words like retard or retarded might not mean anything to some people, but to many others–like me–they do. I promise I am not stripping anyone of their first amendment rights. I am challenging people to be better for others and for themselves and asking people to choose words that don’t place limits on those with intellectual disabilities or medical needs in an attempt to describe something totally unrelated.
I am not over sensitive. I am just a mom of pretty awesome kid with Down syndrome hoping for a shred of decency and Respect from those I share the world with.
If it really is just a word, then please consider a different one…a better one.
Take the pledge. Sign it. Share it. Remember it.
This post is comprised of excerpts from past Spread The Word To End The Word posts here on Dear Tessa.