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The hurtfulness of one word

Nicholas Pellegrini | Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Someone once told me he loves people who have developmental disabilities because they remind him “just how neat God really is.” Unfortunately, most people do not share this man’s point-of-view. People with developmental disabilities are one of the most ostracized groups in America. Seventy percent of people with developmental disabilities are unemployed, 60 percent of parents do not want developmentally disabled children to attend the same school as their children and over 90 percent of babies diagnosed with Down Syndrome are aborted. There is growing awareness about the value of people with developmental disabilities, but much of our country remains oblivious to the tangible benefits people with disabilities offer.
On March 3, 2010, Special Olympics will hold its second annual “Spread the Word to End the Word” day, which raises awareness about the offensive use of the word “retarded” in casual conversation. The r-word is deeply offensive and demeaning to the special needs community, yet its use continues to be prevalent. This is because many people do not realize that the way the r-word is often used can bring a person with special needs to tears.
Ending the use of the r-word will not end the prejudice towards people with special needs, but it is a start. Our words are a reflection of our ideologies, and by changing our language, we can begin to influence our ideologies. The ultimate goal of “Spread the Word to End the Word” is not to stop the use of the r-word, but to make known the fact that people with developmental disabilities are truly blessed, and that they can contribute to society in a tangible way. So please, think about what you are saying next time you use the r-word, and remember who you are offending.

Nicholas Pellegrini
Knott Hall
March 2