The R Word

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  It was late afternoon and my mom was cooking dinner. My sister was... well, I actually don't remember what she was doing, and I was in the living room watching TV. Suddenly I heard shouting outside and something hit the front of our house. Startled, I looked out the window. Standing outside my house was the girl who lived down the street from me, shouting and throwing rocks at the front of my house. we went to school together, and for some reason we just never really got along. We tolerated each other. I thought she was a show-off and she thought I was too. I had probably done something or said something at school that day that peeved her off, I don't know. I threw the door open and was shocked at what I heard her yelling. " Melinda's sister is a retard!", "Retard!", "Retard!" "Melinda's sister is retarded!" Each verbal assault was accompanied by rocks hitting my house. The shock quickly faded and anger took over. I ran across the yard and yelled for her to "Take that back!" She kept shouting it and shoved me. I broke her nose. Right there, in my front yard, for all the neighbors to see. I probably should have felt bad or at least a little scared because people saw it. I was, after all, a total goody-goody. But I didn't and I still don't. My dad was watching from the front door, half upset by my outburst and half proud of how I defended my sister. I don't remember anything else that happened that day. I didn't get in trouble aside from a lecture about how resorting violence isn't the right thing to do. 

  I learned how to deal with things like that better and by high school I calmly asked people to please not use that word. If they asked why not, I explained it to them. Everyone I spoke to respected my request and I never heard any of them intentionally use that word in my presence again. When the occasional slip-up happened they always sincerely apologized. Generally, people use this term in a completely benign way and have no idea what the power of that word actually holds. Once they find out, as with most other things that are shrouded in ignorance, they understand better and it changes their perception and behavior. It is for that reason that I am a firm believer in spreading awareness.

  March 6th was the annual "Spread The Word To End The Word" 
awareness day

What is Spread the Word to End the Word? Spread the Word to End the Word is an on-going effort to raise the consciousness of society about the dehumanizing and hurtful effects of the word "retard(ed)" and encourage people to pledge to stop using the R-word. The campaign is intended to get schools, communities and organizations to rally and pledge their support to help create communities of inclusion and acceptance for all people. Learn more about this campaign here 

  The R-word fosters LONELINESS 
“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. 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.” – Joseph Franklin Stephens, Special Olympics Virginia athlete and Global Messenger As evident with my childhood confrontation, there are times, situations and personalities sometimes involved that may not be best suited for an immediate intervention when you hear someone use the R-word.  It simply may be best at times to walk away from a situation, but that doesn't mean you can’t still do good after walking away. 
It Starts With A Voice is an amazing facebook page chronicling the journey of a wonderful family in their quest to end the r-word. If nothing else, please watch this video. I just did and now I'm in tears, happy tears. Other resources to check out (please do!): The World Of Special Olympics NYT: A Word Gone Wrong Barrington Patch: Spread The Word To End The Word denverpost.com The Hurtful Effects Of The R-Word written by Eddie Barbanell from the hit movie “The Ringer"

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