HOW TO DISCUSS THE R-WORD WITH OTHERS
Having a conversation about the R-word can be difficult and often uncomfortable. Use the dialogues and tips below to help you successfully articulate why the R-word is hurtful and harmful in everyday speech.
Dialogue Scenario 2: You are collecting R-word pledges at an event
Person 1: Hi, I’m a supporter of the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign. We are here to ask people to stop using the word retard and retarded in everyday speech and instead choose respectful language that can help foster communities of inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities. Can I count on you to join us and pledge today?
Person 2: I’m sorry, but you can’t just ban a word and have it removed from the dictionary.
Person 1: I appreciate where you’re coming from; however, our goal is not to ban or delete words. Rather, this effort is intended to draw attention to the fact that a large population of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are hurt and offended by the use of the R-word. Many people simply are not aware of the hurtful nature of the R-word. Our goal is to raise awareness so that people understand when they use the R-word it isn’t funny, it isn’t a joke, but it is harmful.
Person 2: But mental retardation is a medical term, so are you saying we can’t use that now either?
Person 1: No, what we want people to understand is that the R-word is hurtful when it’s used as a derogatory term, and, unfortunately, that’s how it’s used the majority of the time. In most situations, there is a better way to say what you’re trying to say that doesn’t put down an entire population of people.
Person 2: Ok, I get what you’re trying to say, but say we stop using the word “retard,” won’t we just have a different word in its place in a few years? And then won’t that word be offensive?
Person 1: This is about more than just eliminating a certain word from your vocabulary. Our goal is to change the attitudes behind the words and help society appreciate the value that people with intellectual disabilities bring to our communities. They deserve respect, and removing the R-word from our everyday speech is one step we can take toward showing them that respect.
Person 2: Ok, so what you’re saying is it’s not about changing a specific word, it’s about changing attitudes?
Person 1: Exactly! You see, we know that language affects our attitudes and our attitudes affect our actions. So by making the first step in pledging to use respectful language, we have then taken the first step toward creating a culture of inclusion and acceptance for all people.
Person 2: Ok, I get what you’re saying, thanks for explaining the campaign to me.
Tips for a successful conversation:
- Stay calm and collected, it will not help the other person see your point if you are angry and emotional.
- Try to understand the reason he/she disagrees with you. Listen, be respectful and then provide a counterargument that highlights the harmful and hurtful effects of using the R-word.
- Share a personal story about why the R-word is hurtful to you. Personal stories will help people more easily relate to what you are saying because it illustrates your personal commitment to the campaign.
- If you encounter a question you are unable to answer, direct the individual to the Spread the Word to End the Word website (www.r-word.org) to learn more about the campaign, Special Olympics and Best Buddies.