Spreading the Word to End the ‘R-Word’

Spreading the Word to End the R-Word

Noga Raviv and Josh Sacs have a blast at the Best Buddies Halloween party

Ali Jawetz, Online News Editor/Print Copy Editor

The R-word. It’s derogatory, but not unheard of. Students may have had the urge to use it toward friends who are doing something ridiculous, or as an insult to someone who knocked into them in the hallway. However, the week of Feb. 28 was about repressing that urge: spreading the word to end the word.

“The official ‘Spread the Word to End the Word’ day was March 2, but as a chapter we decided to expand it to a whole week [in order] to get more support from WJ students,” said senior Laura Leon, the WJ Best Buddies chapter president. “[We are part of] an ongoing effort by Special Olympics and Best Buddies International to raise awareness in society about the dehumanizing and hurtful effects of the word ‘retard.’”

The Best Buddies chapter at WJ made videos for the morning announcements, painted banners to promote the cause and provided pledges for people to sign to not say the “R-word.”

Though some may say that “retarded” is a medical term, and therefore politically correct, its use as an insult has elicited a change in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSMIV), which is the official manual that classifies and categorizes mental illnesses. The term now used for those who have an IQ under 70 is “developmentally-“ or “cognitively-delayed.” These are the preferred ways to describe those who have mental disabilities.

“In Best Buddies, we use ‘people-first language,’ which means that people with disabilities should not be defined by whatever disability they have,” said Leon. “Instead, their hobbies, interests and extracurricular activities define them.”

On the morning announcements, Best Buddies showed a video by John C. McGinley, who plays Dr. Perry Cox on Scrubs, also advocating for the campaign to end the “R-word.”

“Hearing the ‘R-word’ makes people with intellectual disabilities and those who love them feel like less-valued members of humanity,” he said.