The “R” Word Has Negative Impact

Dustie M. Clements, Contributing Writer
May 2, 2014
Filed under Opinions

When people call something or someone “retarded” they do not realize the affect that they are having on those around them.

Oxforddictionaries.com said the word retard originated from the French word ‘retarder’ and from the Latin word ‘retardare’ meaning slow or mentally handicapped and also defined it as to hold back progress, development or accomplishment. The online dictionary also stated that today the word retarded is also used as a general term of abuse. The fact that this term is being used as a form of abuse is wrong.

People who are mentally slower than their biological age are defined and diagnosed as mentally retarded. The fact is that those people are some of the nicest, most innocent and most nonjudgmental people that anyone could ever hope to meet. People with mental retardation are extremely misunderstood by society as a whole. Those who know and understand those with mental retardation are changed for life. Those with even minimal retardation are bullied, harassed and hurt daily by the younger generation’s way of speaking.

The people of this generation use the word retard in such a casual manner and they do not understand the consequences of their words. Children, teenagers and even adults call objects and other people retarded and they think nothing of it. Individuals with physical disabilities are also targeted for the use of the words retard and retarded, unfortunately. Most people would not call something or someone retarded in front of a person with obvious intellectual or physical disabilities but something that people do not understand is that not all people with disabilities look like they have a disability. Not only do people with disabilities look just like everyone else sometimes, those who work with and love people with disabilities are hurt and angered by the word.

Assistant Professor of Special Education Jessica Zanton said that while it is rare, hearing the word used around campus makes her sad because it reminds her of how much more work needs to be done to raise awareness about the effects of the word. Zanton wanted to point out this website – www.r-word.org -for spreading awareness about the effects of the “R” word. She believes that education and awareness about the issue are the best ways to fix the problem and help people see how hurtful words can be.

People who work with individuals who have any type of disability, whether it be physical or mental, are special people. Individuals who have mental disabilities are hard to understand and they have behavioral issues and they often do not understand personal space and boundaries. It takes a very special person to love and care for these people. Yes, those with mental disabilities are hard to handle sometimes, but the fact is that they are people and just like everyone else.

Those who use the word retard in a mean and harmful manner are denying the fact that people with disabilities are in fact people. Denying a person their right to be seen as an equal is wrong. Psychology professor Aris Karagiorgakis said that he does not actually hear people on campus using the “R” word. He said that he does not hear other offensive words around campus as much as he used to hear them in bigger cities like Toronto and Los Angeles.

Professor Karagiorgakis said that the two things he thinks of when hearing people using the “R” word is ignorance and cultural norms. Some people do not understand how offensive the words they use can be. People sometimes choose to be ignorant to the things they say, while other people just don’t find the word offensive. In some cultures it is OK to say certain things and Professor Karagiorgakis said that maybe people have become desensitized to the word and find it normal to say. While Professor Karagiorgakis does not personally find the “R” word to be offensive, he agreed that how the word is used can be hurtful to those with a personal investment.

The “R” word should not be spoken as a noun that describes someone and certainly not an insult between friends or enemies. There are many people that use the word casually in everyday conversations but as many people use the word, there are just as many people that are offended by it. It has been said many times that “sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me”, but that saying is wrong.

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One Response to “The “R” Word Has Negative Impact”

  1. Laura Lowe on May 2nd, 2014 6:19 pm

    I have worked with and have known people with many different disabilities, and while I am guilty of misusing the ‘R’ word, I find myself feeling sad and alerted to my misuse of the word after reading this article. Thank you for my lesson of the day. I will be working on not following the ‘norm’, by not using that word.

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