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Archive for Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Advocates at KU event seek to end use of ‘R’ word

Students on the Kansas University campus are working to halt the use of a derogatory word. The group, in its second year of the awareness program, is trying to bring an end to the use of the word 'retard'.

March 3, 2010

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As a verb, the word “retard” means to slow down, obstruct or hinder.

But when used as a noun, it has a very different meaning, one that has for years been a common, derogatory label for those with disabilities, as well as an adjective for something silly or unusual.

“It’s become sort of a social norm,” said Clint Armistead, a Special Olympics board member who helped organize the second annual Spread the Word to End the Word day at Kansas University’s Wescoe Beach on Wednesday.

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Armistead and other disability rights advocates across the world spent the day asking people to sign a pledge to stop using the word.

The continued use of the word marginalizes a community of people who have faced discrimination for years, Armistead said.

Megan Singer, a KU junior who signed the pledge, said retard is a word she hears “all the time” around campus and in Lawrence.

Singer said she usually speaks up when she hears it and thinks increasing awareness about the effects the word can have on people with disabilities can cut down on its usage.

“I think most people don’t think twice about it,” she said. “Most people aren’t aware.”

Armistead, who also volunteers with KU’s Best Buddies program, which pairs volunteers with people with disabilities, advises people to “say what they mean” in instances where the word is used as an adjective.

“Instead of saying ‘that’s retarded,’ say ‘that’s ridiculous,’ ” Armistead said. If talking about a person, Armistead said the preferred terminology is to say that a person has a developmental or intellectual disability.

But a first step, he said, is understanding how harmful the word can be.

“It hurts people’s feelings,” he said. “Just know the impact of this word.”

Comments

madcow 4 years, 10 months ago

Oh, I thought this was about the word Republican. My bad.

timetospeakup 4 years, 10 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

puddleglum 4 years, 10 months ago

change is here folks. remember when it was acceptable to say 'that shirt is so gay.' ?

soon, 'JUMBO SHRIMP' will be targeted for removal.

Dan Matthews 4 years, 10 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Leslie Swearingen 4 years, 10 months ago

Developmental or intellectual disability just sounds pretentious and silly and long winded. People get their feelings over everything. Instead of trying to change the world, therapists and those who work with the disabled should be teaching their clients how to deal with reality as it is, not as they would like it to be.

Graczyk 4 years, 10 months ago

Puddleglum,

Ha ha. I burned myself saying "that's so gay" before. I was working with another employee on a project and we were looking at one of our customer's redesigned logo. The logo was so bad, I just looked at it and said, "That logo is so gay." My co-worker, who happened to be gay, turned to me and said, "Gee, how gay is it?" Luckily, he knew I was just stupid rather than malicious.

equalaccessprivacy 4 years, 10 months ago

I think people who don't understand how disabling and limiting some of the language we use ends up being are the true "retards" among us--that would include the majority of the simple-minded and unaware types of people who populate this area of the country.

Language creates reality. Most people just want to be treated like everyone else , and no one deserves to live among small-minded, crude people who see and describe and treat others in terms of offensive stereotypes.

equalaccessprivacy 4 years, 10 months ago

I think people who don't understand how disabling and limiting some of the language we use ends up being are the true "retards" among us--that would include the majority of the simple-minded and unaware types of people who populate this area of the country.

Language creates reality. Most people just want to be treated like everyone else , and no one deserves to live among small-minded, crude people who see and describe and treat others in terms of offensive stereotypes.

Graczyk 4 years, 10 months ago

I think language should be deployed in whatever way the speaker sees fit. However, it may also be that the speaker will face certain social sanctions.

I do understand the power of language, but we should not forget that we are all narrators as well.

WHY 4 years, 10 months ago

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WHY 4 years, 10 months ago

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timetospeakup 4 years, 10 months ago

Sorry, but words are just words. They're only "bad" if you let them be. People need to get over it.

windex 4 years, 10 months ago

I think you can describe a person as mentally retarded and be simply describing a reality. But to call someone a "retard" is pejorative.

Danimal 4 years, 10 months ago

"That's an intellectually disabled thought" just doesn't have the same zing. People are taking all the fun out of the World, one word at a time.

Steve Miller 4 years, 10 months ago

How about just usnig the phrase "@ss Face", that does not cut on any particular sector of society. You should be safe with that one.

Steve Miller 4 years, 10 months ago

How about just usnig the phrase "@ss Face", that does not cut on any particular sector of society. You should be safe with that one.

Kevin Randell 4 years, 10 months ago

There are really two points here. There are decent people in this world who care about others and wouldn't intentionally say things to hurt people, and then you have people who say what they like with no remorse what so ever. I myself, have said things that were hurtful, but when I learn that it has hurt someone's feelings because of saying things like retard, gay or whatever.... I was quick to apologize and chose not to use those words anymore.

Now, what I see here is a movement to ban certain words. Though they may be hurtful, this movement is trying to take away our freedom of speech. This has been happening for years under the blanket of political correctness. Instead of banning those words, how about we move to make up a word to describe the individuals who use those terms? I like the a-face one dudedog12 used.....lol. Unless you have seen the South Park episode, then if there are people out there who really do have a butt for a face then we will have to change it....lol

Have a great day everyone!

WHY 4 years, 10 months ago

LJW removed my Palin joke because I used the word retarded. They may not have noticed that I was using satire which makes it okay to say retarded.

kansasfire911 4 years, 10 months ago

"Check it out. Dustin Hoffman, 'Rain Man,' look retarded, act retarded, not retarded. Counted toothpicks, cheated cards. Autistic, sho'. Not retarded. You know Tom Hanks, 'Forrest Gump.' Slow, yes. Retarded, maybe. Braces on his legs. But he charmed the pants off Nixon and won a ping-pong competition. That ain't retarded. Peter Sellers, "Being There." Infantile, yes. Retarded, no. You went full retard, man. Never go full retard. You don't buy that? Ask Sean Penn, 2001, "I Am Sam." Remember? Went full retard, went home empty handed... "-Tropic Thunder

meggers 4 years, 10 months ago

Irish,

I would submit to you that many used to find the term 'African American' pretentious and silly, as opposed to the "n" word. Societal norms change, as do societal language patterns. Refusing to avoid using a term that you know is offensive and hurtful, all because you don't feel like changing your habits, is both selfish and contemptible.

Leslie Swearingen 4 years, 10 months ago

Meggers, I have never called anyone retarded. I don't like the habit of tacking the word challenged onto everything. I am sixty-four, am I age challenged or old? I prefer old. I have wrinkles, am I skin challenged? I am short, am I height challenged? I also think that there are people who respond to a statement they simply disagree with by saying their feelings were hurt and that way they make the other person to be a bad person. Sorry, but no, I do not see myself as selfish or contemptible. Just curious, but out of all the comments on here, that basically said what I did, why did you chose to respond to mine?

Robert Rauktis 4 years, 10 months ago

Language evolves despite attempts to shape usage. Otherwise, we would sound Shakesperian.

Attitudes can be influenced. Words? Well, the best way to depreciate words is to not put parenthesis around them. They are handy markers for supidity.

mrsm 4 years, 10 months ago

I would like to point out "African American" wasn't a term to brought about to change the "N" word, it was brought about because people found Black to be an offensive term. Just like "Caucasion" changed White.

Leslie Swearingen 4 years, 10 months ago

Red and yellow, Black and white, We are precious in his sight, Jesus love the little children of the world.

Leslie Swearingen 4 years, 10 months ago

Let's ban using a letter of a word, I mean if we are supposed to know the word the letter stands for, why not just come right out and say it. Think it, but don't say it? Baloney! L word? Liquor? License? Lettuce? Lamp?

jehovah_bob 4 years, 10 months ago

Arguing on a Journal World thread is like being in the Special Olympics, even if you win you're still ridiculous.

Jeremy DeBoard 4 years, 10 months ago

"The continued use of the word marginalizes a community of people who have faced discrimination for years, Armistead said."

The use of a word is not what marginalizes a community. The minds of people not willing to accept a community for their values is what causes marginalization. Words used to describe a person or persons does not make the word itself bad. "Banning" a word because of how it's used does not stop those who use it from simply using another word. Ask the homosexual community how many words are and have been used to describe them and you'd be surprised how many you hear.

As for discrimination, don't you mean to say preferentialism? I mean, if we're going to tell each other what words we can use, I would rather you use that one to the other.

georgiahawk 4 years, 10 months ago

I think we should use the "R" word and the "N" word ad nauseum, until they have lost all of their power. When I was growing up the "F" word had a lot of power to upset people, now it is just another word to discuss politics. Lost all of its power!

meggers 4 years, 10 months ago

Irish,

I reponded to your post, because I felt that you were using the same sort of arguments that once were used to defend the n-word. The bottom line is that if you know a word is insulting and hurtful to others, choosing to use it, anyway, means you are behaving in a manner that is insulting and hurtful to others.

'Challenged" is not the accepted terminology used to describe people with disabilities. What you personally prefer to hear yourself described as (and thereby defined by) is your business. You should not take the liberty of making that decision for others.

People are speaking out about how the use of this particular word makes them feel. Of course, you and others have the right to continue using it. Just don't pretend it isn't hurtful, because you have already been informed otherwise.

BTW, I realize that you now deny using the term, but based on your earlier post, you certainly seemed to feel that it's an acceptable word to use and those who are offended should just get over it. While it's certainly anyone's right to say what they wish, that does not make derogatory and harmful language acceptable, in my opinion.

kawrivercrow 4 years, 10 months ago

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kawrivercrow 4 years, 10 months ago

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gatekeeper 4 years, 10 months ago

Ease up people. All these comments about offending people by using the word "retard". Who is being offended? Do you think people are going up to retarded people (that is the proper terminology according to my sister-in-law who is a special ed teacher) and calling them retards and offending them? Words are words. People take things too seriously.

A couple of weeks ago, Palin got all p*ssed because the show Family Guy made a reference about the gov of AK and having a retarded child (the character on the show was voiced by an actress with Down's Syndrome). Palin came out with a statement about how the show's creators are heartless jerks. Well, the person that did the voice for the show then released her own statement. I think it's fitting based on the conversation being had here about using the word "retard".

Andrea Fay Friedman: My name is Andrea Fay Friedman. I was born with Down syndrome. I played the role of Ellen on the "Extra Large Medium" episode of Family Guy that was broadcast on Valentine's day. Although they gave me red hair on the show, I am really a blonde. I also wore a red wig for my role in " Smudge" but I was a blonde in "Life Goes On". I guess former Governor Palin does not have a sense of humor. I thought the line "I am the daughter of the former governor of Alaska" was very funny. I think the word is "sarcasm".

In my family we think laughing is good. My parents raised me to have a sense of humor and to live a normal life. My mother did not carry me around under her arm like a loaf of French bread the way former Governor Palin carries her son Trig around looking for sympathy and votes.

I think we can ll learn from Andrea to lighten up.

timetospeakup 4 years, 10 months ago

mrsm - you can call me white whenever. It's a reasonable description of my skin color and I don't find it offensive.

methastophalize 4 years, 10 months ago

See thats whats wrong with this country nowadays...u can't say or do anything nowadays with out offending someone...if they keep this up u won't be able to say HELLO to someone they might get offended by it...LOL

methastophalize 4 years, 10 months ago

See that's what is wrong with America ...u can't say or look at anyone nowadays because they might get offended by it. What is the country coming to....hell if we keep it up we won't be able to say Hello to each other cause someone one might get offended that u said hello to them....LOL

meggers 4 years, 10 months ago

gatekeeper,

The Family Guy episode didn't use the word "r****" to describe the character, so I don't think your example is very relevant to this discussion.

With all due respect to your sister-in-law, the term "retarded" is not the accepted terminilogy these days. It's used as a medical term to diagnose the level of cognitive disability, however it is definitely not the accepted term for most other purposes- including education. That's been the case for close to 20 years. Not to get too caught up in semantics, but disability rights groups also prefer phrases that don't define people by their disability. The term "retarded child" would be considered a poor choice of words by most disability rights groups and professional who work in the field. That language was used at one time, however, which makes me wonder if perhaps your sister-in-law is retired.

My point is that if people with disabilities are offended by the use of the word, it doesn't hurt to be more respectful. Whether or not people would actually call someone that to their face is irrelevant. Just as the n-word is inappropriate and offensive, regardless of the skin color of the person it's directed at.

BTW, I loved Andrea's Palin comment.

Evan Ridenour 4 years, 10 months ago

This is retard.... oh wait... I mean ridiculous.

Evan Ridenour 4 years, 10 months ago

I would like to know why someone would feel so much better if I were to point them out and say, "you are intellectually disabled" compared to "you are retarded."

It is much more common these days for the word to be used to describe a situation... not individuals. I can't remember the last time I saw someone point at a mentally disabled individual and call them a retard or even refer to a disabled individual in conversation as being retarded. If you get all bothered because you are in a social setting and someone uses a phrase like, "wow, that is retarded" maybe you should either: (1) get over it; (2) go somewhere you will be more comfortable; and/or (3) move to a different social group.

Instead of trying to force on others how to act, try exercising some personal freedom and moving yourself to a setting where you are more comfortable. I am not a big fan of people using these kinds of euphemisms either but I also understand that I don't control how other people communicate with each other and that I shouldn't read a false intent into the diction they use and get all upset...

Jeremy DeBoard 4 years, 10 months ago

Eride (anonymous) says...

"Instead of trying to force on others how to act, try exercising some personal freedom and moving yourself to a setting where you are more comfortable."

Hmm, this sounds similar to the smoker/non-smoker debate.

gatekeeper 4 years, 10 months ago

Meggars - my sister-in-law is in her 30's and works as a teacher in a private school in Orange Cty, CA. The correct term is still mental retardation. A person with mental retardation is "retarded". Sorry you don't like the terminology, but that is the correct term. I even looked it up through the Natl Assoc of Spec Ed Teachers. People outside the field use the term retarded to refer to people acting stupid. I'm sorry you don't like their choice of words. Guess what? You may not like a lot of things people say, but you don't have the right to tell others what they can and can't say. I'm sure you at times say things that others may not like.

The actual dictionary definition of retarded is: slow or limited in intellectual or emotional development or academic progress. Some people aren't really mentally retarded as in needing special ed help, but do fit this definition.

Go listen to some JGB and chill. BTW - Seals and JGB are playing the Uptown Saturday.

http://www.naset.org/mentalretardation2.0.html

gatekeeper 4 years, 10 months ago

meggers (anonymous) says... gatekeeper,

The Family Guy episode didn't use the word "r****" to describe the character, so I don't think your example is very relevant to this discussion. /////////

It is relevant. The point is that everyone needs to chill and quit being so darned politically correct. No, they didn't call the character retarded on the show. BUT, the point of her character was to show that a person with D.S. should be treated just like everyone else. All this special treatment, political correctness B.S. has gone too far. Does anyone have a sense of humor anymore?

meggers 4 years, 10 months ago

gatekeeper,

Your point is well taken about the use of the term mental retardation, in terms of clarifying the nature of the disability for educatonal purposes. I still don't think teachers go around referring to children as "retarded". The terminology has changed over the years to be more respectful of the individual, rather than defining them by their disability. I do agree, though, that it is certainly appropriate in a diagnostic sense (or to meet special ed criteria) to use the term mental retardation. With that being said, I definitely don't think the term "r****d" is used anywhere in the educational or medical fields.

I'm certainly not trying to tell anyone else what to say. Feel free to shout the word at the top of your lungs. I'm only pointing out that just because you don't see why other people might be insulted or offended by the word, that does not mean that their hurt isn't something that is very real for them.

I used it, too, when I was younger and didn't realize that I was insulting millions of people when I said it, rather than just one person. Once I realized that it was ridiculous to use a real and often challenging disability take a cheap shot at someone, I deleted it from my social vocabulary. Besides, there are much more colorful words to describe someone who does something completely f''d up.

Unfortunately, I have other plans that I committed to before I found out about the JGB show. I'm tempted to blow the other off and go, anyway. We shall see. Either way, no worries. I'm pretty good at chillin'. ;)

IrishCat 4 years, 10 months ago

"Irish" says: Developmental or intellectual disability just sounds pretentious and silly and long winded. People get their feelings over everything. Instead of trying to change the world, therapists and those who work with the disabled should be teaching their clients how to deal with reality as it is, not as they would like it to be.

I ask you Irish, do you have a child with a disability? do you have a family member, aunt, uncle, or neighbor you cherish with a disability? I think not, if you did, you would also find what you said above insensitive and rude. I have a 22 year old son with mild autism. He functions pretty well in society because he's been through nearly 19 years of therapy of some kind. He's been in special classes, he's had paras, he's had speech, physical and occupational therapy to get him to where he is today. He works part time for the school district and also volunteers at LMH. He takes the city bus to and from work. He knows he's autistic, but he prefers to have it be known as a slight learning disability. He would not appreciate being called a "retard" no matter how much his therapists had taught him to deal with reality as you stated it. I find "retard" as offensive as the "n" word and would love to see it changed. Maybe you need to walk a mile in our shoes...maybe I need to change my username.

Evan Ridenour 4 years, 10 months ago

"jadkansas (anonymous) says...

Eride (anonymous) says...

"Instead of trying to force on others how to act, try exercising some personal freedom and moving yourself to a setting where you are more comfortable."

Hmm, this sounds similar to the smoker/non-smoker debate."

That isn't a very logical analogy. I am assuming you are referring to indoor smoking. Second hand smoke is actually hazardous to an individuals health. Numerous scientific studies have shown it is a major cause of serious illness and death for everyone who is around it. Calling a situation "retarded" only offends a small minority of people who believe their inner feelings are more important then everyone else ability to phrase things how they want.

It is hardly logical to relate an indoor smoker forcing toxic air that injures everyone around him to a person calling a situation "retarded" and hurting one or two peoples feelings.

One situation is truly harmful to the welfare of society and harms everyone around it, the other is a mere annoyance to a minority of the population.

Jeremy DeBoard 4 years, 10 months ago

So your statement about personal freedom only applies when you would like it to.

Now where have I heard this logic before...

I'm all for personal freedom. Do what and where you'd like. Say what and where you'd like. As long as you abide by the laws and regulations, then you have nothing to worry about.

Back to words. "Fat" is offensive to a larger (no pun) community. Shouldn't it have been advocated to not be said before "retard"? There are other words used instead of "fat", but as with "retard", we'll just leave those for later.

Deb Engstrom 4 years, 10 months ago

I spend a lot of time with people who have cognitive disabilities, both as my students and my friends. When I hear other people use the word "retard" or "retarded" to refer to something or someone they think is not "cool", what are they saying about them?

Evan Ridenour 4 years, 10 months ago

"jadkansas (anonymous) says… So your statement about personal freedom only applies when you would like it to.

Now where have I heard this logic before...

I can't help it if you can't tell the difference between hurting a few peoples feelings and putting everyone else around you at risk for serious illness or death.

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