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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Abdicate the R-word from your vocabulary | Angela Hawkins,

Chances are that most students have heard or used the R-word without thinking twice about it. Although it started out as slang derived from the medical term “mental retardation” it has become offensive for individuals and family members with intellectual disabilities.
So writes Angela Hawkins in her student newspaper at the University of Kansas. I think she's referring to students in the past 30 years or so. I never used it when I was a student (in the '50s and '60s), at least the way Hawkins is using it, and I don't recall hearing other students use it that way.

I did use a form of that word, however. I grew up considering my mentally disabled older brother to be mentally retarded. It's only been in the past few years that I've used other terms to describe his condition. Sadly, he died in 2009, but I learned a lot from him before then. 

Hawkins writes that efforts to end widespread use of the R-word have failed so far. She quotes Michael Wehmeyer, a professor of special education at the the university:
I think that most people don’t understand how insulting the R-word really is, and they use it without thought. It is through efforts to make people aware of the inappropriateness of the term and the offensiveness of the term that people become aware and begin to monitor their use of them.
Hawkins ends her editorial:
By reading this editorial, you as a reader have been made aware. It’s your turn. ... Remember that this isn’t about inconveniencing you. This is about respecting others, regardless of society’s views. Find another word; there are plenty to choose from.
I hope it works--at least at the University of Kansas. Wouldn't it be wonderful if mainstream daily and weekly newspapers throughout our country printed similar editorials--and news stories--on this subject! 

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