Thursday, February 18, 2010

Reactions to the R-Word

The recent debacle about the r-word has stirred much controversy and many reactions including this open letter to Sarah Palin posted by the Oz Squad, an elite group of active, compassionate bloggers dedicated to educating the public about Down syndrome. Please read the letter and "sign" it by leaving a comment on the post. Once there are 100 signatures, the Oz Squad will contact Sarah Palin and ask her to visit the Oz Squad blog to read the letter and the comments. Why a letter to Sarah Palin? Whether you like her or not, she is going to be in the spotlight speaking up about Down syndrome more often than not. We hope that by doing this, she will be better equipped to stand up for our loved ones.

Another person that has always openly spoken out about ending the r-word is John C. McGinley. He is an actor and a spokesperson for the National Down Syndrome Society. His son, Max, has Down syndrome.

I would like to share his recent contribution to The Huffington Post.

N*ggers, K*kes, F*ggots, C*nts, W*ps and the R-word

By John C. McGinley
Actor and Spokesperson for the National Down Syndrome Society
Posted: February 10, 2010 04:10 AM

Editors Note: The following piece contains strong language, used to explain the impact of certain words in our society.

Recently, the words “Retard” and “Retarded” have become political volleyballs. Disingenuous figures from across the ideological spectrum have been lining up to take their shot at smashing the R-word down our throats. And no matter what party is being “represented” or what Constitutional Right is being exercised, whose agenda is being advanced? The people who have been hurling the R-word about have failed to realize that their language is the stuff of cowards! Only spineless bullies pick on those who cannot defend themselves. And by using the R-word without an once of compassion or even the least bit of sensitivity towards those who are damaged by their hate-speak, these prominent figures have truly become national shames. And it stinks!

People with Special Needs — and their families — do not need any help to make their lives “a little more challenging.” They already have plenty on their plate, thank you very much. And the last thing that any Special Needs family wants is to be assaulted with the R-word. It is already an uphill battle!

Dignity is inherent to the human condition. An individual’s dignity is not only an entitlement. It is a fundamental quality that distinguishes each of us and lends an informed significance to everything that we do. And any time a person’s dignity is stomped on, it is wrong! The R-word robs people with Special Needs of their dignity. And it is time to stop.

What if from now on, we changed the way we use the words “retard” and “retarded?”

It hardly seems like the largest of sacrifices. Not when you consider the changes in language that we have already so willingly elected to integrate into (or expunge from) our vernacular. We no longer use the words “N*gger” or “k*ke” or “f*ggot” or “c*nt.” Why would we? Why on earth would we? Those are all words that hurt. Those are all racial and ethnic slurs and epithets that perpetuate negative stigmas. They are painful. And that is not okay. It is wrong to pain people with our language. Especially when we have already been made aware of our oral transgressions’ impact.

Make no mistake about it: words do hurt! And when we pepper our speech with “retard” and “retarded,” we are spreading hurt. So stop it. Stop saying “retard” and “retarded.” There is no acceptable occasion to lace our dialogue with words like “n*gger,” or “k*ke” or “f*ggot” or “c*nt.” There is no longer any acceptable occasion to lace our dialogue with the words “retard” and “retarded.” Without fail, those are all word that hurt. They straight up are. So, cut it out. Stop using the R-word.

The millions of people with Special Needs (around the planet), who are on the receiving end of this hate speak, are genetically designed to love unconditionally. These “retards” are NEVER going to return our vitriol. Ever! So, what could possibly be the up-side of continuing to use the R-word in our daily discourse?

Only cowards pick on those who cannot defend themselves. By using the R-word we are inadvertently, sadly and sometimes directly hurting a group of people who never did anything wrong to any of us. Not even close.

There is an easy way to put this initiative into motion. Please join our effort to “Spread the Word to End the Word.” Go to
Related posts:
End the R-Word


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately,the R word is so easily said in jest, as a seemingly innocent adjective, and most of the people who use it I don't think realize the painful association it has for Special Needs families and friends. But they need to.

When someone has the urge to use the R word, I think the word "ridiculous" should roll off their tongue instead. It probably conveys what they intend, does not hurt anyone's feelings, and it is a neutral word that does not reflect on my nephew & others. To those that persist in the R word, I would ask who is? The person with the genetic limitations that loves without condition, or the so-called "typical" person that can't seem to come up with a more apt word, when they have dozens to chose from???

To them I would say my nephew has nothing to do with the mistakes you see that you want to comment on,the things you want to make fun of, or the lack of thought you want to judge, so don't bring him into it with your poor choice of language.

I'm sure most would say they never meant a direct association with my nephew & others, but that's how it feels to us. How would the black community feel if it was common to say "That's so N*gger" in jest when talking about something that has a prejudicial & stereotypical association with something negative? That's how people USED to talk, until they realized it was hurtful, wrong, etc. The R word is the last frontier (I hope) of this sort of thinking, and it needs to be eradicated in the same way. People need to stop using it, and need to not have their children hear it so it is not passed onto the next generation.

It's an easy word to live without, and it means so much to those it affects to live without it, so why not do away with it.

Matthew's Very Proud Auntie Kris

DownTownDan said...

Thank you so much for posting this! Please, everyone, please come sign the letter to Sarah.

Monica Crumley said...

Thank you for sharing the letter from John McGinley. I LOVE the last 3 paragraphs. I hate "that" word and all the words he points out that are no longer acceptable for use. Keep up the good fight.

Lisa said...

Yesterday, in my class (community college), one student used that word. Because it's not allowed in my class, the entire conversation stopped, OOOH went around the room, and everyone turned to look at the offender. "What?" he said. "You can't say that in here," the other students said. "Oh," he said, looking very uncomfortable. I said one sentence: "you know you can't say that here." He paused, reformatted his comment, and the historical discussion went on as before. I think this shows that an aggressive approach to the use of the r word yields positive results.