It is time to "Spread the Word to End the Word," and on Tuesday, 31 March, events throughout the United States and around the world will make people stop and think about their hurtful and disparaging use of the word "retard."
Most people don't think of this word as hate speech, but that's exactly what it feels like to millions of people with intellectual disabilities, their families and friends. Using "retard" as a term of derision is just as cruel and offensive as any other slur.
The "R" word is no joke. Its usage is associated with a history of institutionalization, genocide, forced sterilization, segregation, and being regarded as "less than human." Additionally, more than any other group, people with intellectual disabilities continue to experience record unemployment, significant physical, mental and sexual abuse, and limited rights.
The "R'" word was born of oppression -- not until 1975, with the passage of P.L. 94-142 were people with intellectual disabilities -- ID -- even allowed to receive a public education.
For many years, people with ID lived as slaves in large, state and privately run institutions where they were made to work, without compensation, at tasks such as farming, gardening, cooking, cleaning and "taking care of'" other residents who could not care for themselves.
While the Ku Klux Klan may not have specifically targeted people with ID, people with ID were the victims of the Eugenics Movement, which permeated society, scientific establishments and state and federal government.
Between 1907 and 1963, more than 64,000 people with disabilities were forcibly sterilized under the auspices of eugenic legislation in the United States. The Nazi architects of the "final solution'' honed their skills by practicing first on people with disabilities.
While the word "kidnapping" may not apply, countless numbers of people with ID were taken away from their families and communities and admitted to large public institutions. These institutions could rightfully be described as state-sanctioned ghettos.
People with ID continue to be the victims of violence. Current data on abuse and neglect of people with ID highlights the seriousness of this issue.
This, in a nutshell, is the reason that people take offense at the use of the "R" word.
Rod Patterson, Pontiac
(Published on Pantagraph.com)
Spread the Word to End the Word will raise the consciousness of society about the dehumanizing and hurtful effects of the R-word and encourage people to pledge to stop using it. America will be asked to declare their support for more respectful and inclusive language, specifically that referring to those with intellectual disabilities.
What can you do?
· Stop using the r word
· Tell others why they shouldn't use the r word
· Go to http://www.r-word.org/ and take the pledge to stop using the r word and learn more about the events on March 31st
· Tell your friends to take the pledge
For more info, see related article on SpecialOlympics.org