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Monday, February 15, 2010

Washington Post Articles About the R-Word

In yesterday's Washington Post I read this article - Saying it is Hurtful, Banning it is Worse by Christopher Fairman.

The article was mostly about the Special Olympics campaign to "Spread The Word To End The Word." The pledge is "I pledge and support the elimination of the derogatory use of the r-word from everyday speech and promote the acceptance and inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities."

Mr Fairman says he sympathizes "...with the effort, but I won't be making that pledge. It's not that I've come to praise the word "retard"; I just don't think we should bury it."

His argument is that words aren't the culprit, the meaning attached to them is, and words such as 'r*tard,' 'queer', 'gay' and the 'n-word' have multiple meanings.

This is true. You can use r*tard when referring to music.

However, the Special Olympics campaign specifically states eliminating the derogatory use of the word. And we all know those common phrases "S/he is so r*tarded" "I'm so r*tarded" "that's so r*tarded" "S/he's such a r*tard" are all used in derogatory ways - not in any appropriate context. They are used in ways that are meant to demean, or be a put down, or refer to something as stupid, dumb, ridiculous etc.

The Special Olympics is asking for people to not use the r-word in that way. It's not such a hard concept to grasp; just choose another word to use in place of it.

This guy just doesn't get it. Neither do a lot of other people. There is a 'poll' on the side of the article asking how people feel about the Special Olympics campaign, and right now 54% of people oppose it. How sad that so many people just don't get it.

A rebuttal to his article is Defending the Word R*tard is Not Heroic by Michael Gerson. He gets what the campaign is all about.

"But defending the r-word is not the protection of free expression; it is the defense of bullies." "...what Fairman calls “self-censorship” is really kindness and moral judgment. And what he regards as free expression is just rude, abusive and cruel." and my favorite quote, "...what the Special Olympics is proposing – encouraging people to take a personal pledge against the derogatory use of the r-word – is not government censorship, it is social stigma. In this case, such stigma is a sign of moral maturity."

Moral maturity. Sums it all up.

There is another article in response to the first article...The Bigotry Behind the Word R*tard by Timothy Shriver.

"But for our part, we are trying to awaken the world to the need for a new civil rights movement -- of the heart. We seek to educate people that a crushing prejudice against people with intellectual disabilities is rampant -- a prejudice that assumes that people with significant learning challenges are stupid or hapless or somehow just not worth much. They're, um, "retarded." And that attitude is not funny or nuanced or satirical. It's horrific."

Have you taken the pledge yet?

Here is an open letter to Sarah Palin from the Oz Squad.

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Ellen said...

this is an excellent post, Michelle.

Molly said...

what I want to know is why Sarah Palin didn't speak out against Rush Limbaugh!!

Christina said...

Well said!

Mom24 said...

I hate how politicized the whole thing has gotten, but I do agree it is wrong to use the word to hurt. I will never do it and I will definitely never allow my children to do it.

Sarah said...

I wish we could outlaw every hurtful, bad, labeling word. That would be nice wouldn't it? But I also get that this is a biggie, just like the "n" word and the like. Bottom line, I wish people's hearts would change, regardless of the words they use to express their hearts, and I guess that's where Jesus comes in. Love to you Michelle!

Anonymous said...

I don't even have one ounce of understanding how so much of society refuse to acknowledge that there is a large segment of people out there that are trying to do good.

IMO, detaching the meaning from a word, any word, is nonsense, plain and simple. We use words to express ourselves and words have the means for this expression.

We all see the symbol for a stop sign, right? We all know what it means. Quite frankly, the word "retard" used in a derogatory way can only mean one thing. It doesn't come unattached to meaning.

Why does anyone deny this -- especially a journalist?

Marie said...

Excellent post Michelle! I do see the journalist's point to an extent but like you said he missed out on the fact that the special olympics campaign is to end the deragatory use of the term, the common slang insult that the word has become in "popular" culture.
The word retard can mean to slow down as in to slow down the growth of a bacteria. The word retarded can refer to development that has been slowed for some reason. In its proper use, it means something but that is not how your average user uses it today and that is what has to stop.