Wednesday, March 03, 2010


I just found out about this today, a sharp eyed reader spotted it and sent it to me. I haven't had time to chase down who is sponsoring this or what is being done today. I'm glad that someone has organized a day.

However, for me. The word has ended. I do not use it, it is not used around me. I hear it on television, in movies and out of the mouths of passers by. I have handed out 'words hit' cards, and I have spoken up. At first I felt shy about doing it, now I don't. I'm convinced of the rightness of the cause.

It's a word only spoken to hurt or degrade.

Yet people say, 'I didn't mean anything by it.' Good, then, since it means nothing, your vocabulary won't be affected by erasing it from speech.

Yet people say, 'I wasn't referring so someone, you know, retarded.' Well, ya just did. I know that not everyone has the energy to know the exact terminology of what to call someone. Intellectually disabled, developmentally disabled, differently abled - yikes, I can't keep up. But pretty much every one knows the word disability and it fits the bill easily.

Yet people say, 'You shouldn't ban words.' Hmmmm. These usually are people who have banned a variety of words from their speech depending on their contacts and their preferences. Nah, let's be honest, these are people who have banned words from their speech based on the power and the anger of the group opposing them. Their courage comes from what they see as lack of consequences for their action.

'R@tard won't get you fired.' Yet.

'R@tard won't cost you social capital.' Yet.

'R@tard will still get a laugh.' 'So Far'

'R@tard makes you feel like a rebel.' 'Oh, Big, You.'

What is exciting me about our movement is two fold. First. we are going to win. Second, the reason we are going to win is because we are developing our power and our anger. We need these things, because the battles to come are going to be about structures built by brick or attitude. Battles that can only be won with the power of unity and the fuel of anger.

Today no one says the word around you or me 'k.

Can we make this a Rolling Around in My Head pledge.

Sign on in the comment section.


Kris S. said...

AMEN, sir!

Sharon McDaid said...

Glad you're feeling hopeful that we are increasing our power for I don't. I am angry however. I blogged this camapign too.

You make a great point that the same people who whine about being asked to speak more respectfully already self censor depending on who they're talking to and how much damage being rude to each individual can can the speaker/writer.

tetisheri said...

I haven't used the r word in a good long time. I tell off teenagers who use it to describe anything, and tell them why it is wrong, usually saying it's like saying brown hair (or whatever thing that person has) to say something's nasty. Same with using gay as a derogatory word. I try and teach people about people first language, because people are people first, and whatever diagnosis second. So, you have a pledge from my family in Maine. I am going to post this on my Facebook page, because I have friends who have kids with Autism, and my nephew has Down Syndrome, and I don't want any of those kids to ever have to deal with being called retards.

Anonymous said...

I don't use the word - but how do you get around naming a former agency with the "R" word in its name? It often has changed - but people often assiciate it with a former name . . .
Susan Ludwig

Anonymous said...

Yes, indeed! Wash it out, scrub it out. I deleted it from my vocabulary years ago.
The Wheeliecrone has spoken.

Susan said...

I give my solemn pledge. I will not use that word. And when I hear others use it, I will take the opportunity to tell them why it offends me and hurts all of us... I'm in. Been in for a long time.

Kristin said...

Well said, I was teaching my boys this the other day. One of them was repeating something a friend said and I cut them short...told them that was an insulting word and there was no reason to use it.

J said...

Check out these YouTube videos on End The Word:

Liz Miller said...

No-one says it around me anymore without getting called on it since you drew my attention to it.

Anonymous said...

Whenever I have faced a situation in which I am explaining how it is derogatory regardless of the intent of use, I just say to them, it is just as easy to replace "that" word with ridiculous. Usually makes them think. And really it is quite simple and easy to do.

Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

Sign me up!

I have to tell you a couple of stories.

First, when I am teaching my class about inclusive and respectful language and I want to tackle the r-word I write "nigger" on the board in big letters. There is an audible gasp. Then I tell them that we all know this is a filthy word and I know they would never use it and neither would I. I get them to tell me all the reasons why they wouldn't use it. And they know - they get this. I taunt them - well it is just from the Spanish negre which means black or dark - what's wrong with that? They tell me. I write it in a ring around the word on the board - the history of oppression, the deeply derogatory meaning, the racism - all of it - they get it. Then I erase nigger and write r@tard in the space and ask them if it still works. And then they get it - they know it works for the same reasons. I started using this tactic out of desperation - whenever I used to try to convince them that the r-word is a filthy derogatory word they would argue with me and say all those things you say in your blog - well it isn't meant to hurt people - it just means slow etc. My new (admittedly controversial)tactic gets them past all that defensiveness.

Second, I always hand out Words Hit Like a Fist cards to my students. One woman told me that her husband had learned how awful that word is from her as she discussed what she was learning in class. He told her that he regularly heard co-workers use the r-word at work and one day there was a man with Down Syndrome waiting in line to place an order at his work and one of his co-workers used the r-word about something that had gone wrong (not aimed at the man with Down Syndrome) and my student's husband noticed the look of hurt on this man's face. When he came home that evening he asked my student what he could do so that his co-workers would stop and they would never hurt someone like that again. He decided to use a Words Hit Like a Fist card. He pinned it up on the bulletin board at work -anonymously. His co-workers read it and stopped using the word.

I have to add to this discussion that not only does language need to change but attitudes need to change too. I think language is one aspect of attitude change but not the whole thing.

Thanks, Dave, for the work you do, for your passion for the work!


theknapper said...

I make this pledge and to pass on the campaign info.

Cynthia F. said...

I make the pledge - and thanks for your and others' tips about how to do the follow-up argument when people roll their eyes and tell me they don't mean it to be hurtful and that "those people" don't mind, etc. Love your story about the "n-word," Colleen!

Princeton Posse said...

I promise not to use the word or allow others to use it unchallenged. Better world coming soon...

Mitchell said...

It is getting bigger every day

State seeks an end to ‘R-word’

01:00 AM EST on Wednesday, March 3, 2010

By Randal Edgar

Journal State House Bureau

Governor Carcieri is joining forces with the Special Olympics and Best Buddies to ban the word “retard” from everyday speech.

Declaring March 3 to be “Spread the Word to End the Word Day,” Carcieri said the “R-word” is “routinely used to insult people, particularly those with intellectual and developmental disabilities” and should be eliminated from everyday vocabulary.

“This is about more than changing a word,” Carcieri, whose late sister had Down syndrome, said in a news release. “It is about changing attitudes toward almost 200 million people in the world who have intellectual and developmental disabilities.”

The governor is so big on eliminating the “R-word” that he and Craig S. Stenning, director of the Rhode Island Department of Mental Health, Retardation and Hospitals, are looking to change that department’s name. Stenning, quoted in the same news release, said, “the stigma and misunderstanding of intellectual and developmental disabilities” is an ongoing challenge, which is why the department “supports the need to remove the word from our official department name.”

The governor’s office does not have a new name in mind but expects that there will be public hearings at which people will be able to make suggestions.

A bill sponsored by Rep. Frank D. Ferri, D-Warwick, would rename the department, calling it the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals. The bill was referred to the House Health, Education and Welfare Committee.

CAM said...

About four or five years ago I was having dinner out with my kids and the young man who was serving us was a boy who had worked a part time job with me when he was in high school.
At the end of dinner he was telling me about problems he was having at his university. I the conversation he used the r-word.
I didn't say anything, and after he left, my son said to me, "I can't believe he dropped the r-bomb and you didn't freak out!"
I told him that sometimes I am just tired of it, but those times are few and far between.

Kate said...

I am definitely in.

Anonymous said...

And So It Is!

Astra said...

I'm English and fortunately that word hasn't caught on over here, but I'm concerned that it might.

Through the internet (YouTube in particular) I've gathered that it's a pretty common term among Americans who seem to throw it around willy nilly. But to us, it's still a derogatory term for a person with learning difficulties.

I hope it stays that way and doesn't spread over here the way the phrase "That's so gay" or "You're so gay" did. Using the word gay as an insult is just one of many stupid American things that are invading our culture.

I love that you're blogging about this campaign, but it's sad to see that the R word has spread to Canada. I don't want it to come to my country and if I have anything to do with it, it won't.

So good for you Dave, and count me in!

M Terry Kirkpatrick said...

Sorry I'm a little late getting on this, just read this blog post today (March 5 2010). But, as they say, "better late than never" so count me in.

Cindi said...

Sorry I am late adding a comment here. However, I got this and already posted it on my Facebook page the other day.

I too have educated the people in my life to not use this word. It is just as harmful as the "N" word. I have asked people that I catch using the "R" word if they use the "N" word. I usually get horrified looks that say absolutely not. I am often, surprised at their reaction when I tell them to me it means the same thing.

Why is it that the majority of people get the concept of the “N” word, but laugh at the use of the “R” word? I am afraid I am the one that just doesn’t get it.

Redneck Mommy said...

Thank you for this. I wrote about this on my blog too. I wish the entire world would heed our words.

Kasie said...

I'm in! I promise!