USU Groups Launch Campaign to End Thoughtless Use of the 'R-word'
Thursday, Mar. 28, 2013
(illustration from the Hard News Café website)
The Student Life section of Utah State Today highlights work written by the talented student journalists at Utah State University. Each week, the editor selects a story that has been published in The Utah Statesman or the Hard News Café or both for inclusion in Utah State Today.
USU Groups Launch Campaign to End Thoughtless Use of the ‘R-word’
By Mary Taggart, in the Hard News Café, Tuesday, March 26
Utah State University’s Best Buddies and Special Olympics chapters kicked off their Spread the Word to End the Word campaign Monday [March 25], raising awareness about the derogatory misuse of the word “retarded” or, as they say, the “R-word.”
Spread the Word is a national campaign that petitions people to stop using offensive words regarding people with development disabilities as a starting point toward creating more accepting attitudes and societies. The campaign began on campus with an open mic night in the Taggart Student Center, where students and community members expressed their opinions and experiences with the common misuse of such terms.
“The greatest thing about Spread the Word to End the Word, is that it’s people who’ve had real-life experiences with people they love who’ve been offended by the R-word,” said Best Buddies co-director Landon Owens. “When people hear those personal stories, it gives them a reason to stop saying the word. All they need is the reason behind it to stop. Once you connect what the word really means and the way it makes people feel, you’ll stop.”
The first volunteer to share her story Monday night was junior Rachel Hilton, whose sister Maggie has severe disabilities due to a traumatic brain injury she sustained from shaken baby syndrome.
“She is such a blessing, she’s so kind and has taught me everything about life,” Hilton said. “This word is real and it comes from places with real origins, and it truly hurts when you have personal connections with someone with a disability. So that’s why I’ve pledged to never say the R-word.”
During the forum, senior citizen Devon Loveday spoke about dealing with an intellectual disability and his experiences with people referring to him as “retarded.”
“Saying the R-word hurts my feelings and makes me really sad,” Loveday said. “There is no reason people should say it because it makes people feel bad about themselves.”
Sophomore Yusuf Mumin drew comparisons to other derogatory terms that most people now shun.
“Being African-American, I hate being called the N-word,” he said. “We all have a word that no one wants to be called.”
Campaign chair Thomas Rogers said he doesn’t expect every student to stop saying the R-word immediately, but he is hopeful the campaign will have an influence.
“The campaign has been extremely successful so far,” Rogers said. “My hope is that the cause will become bigger and bigger to the point that students begin the process to stop using the word. I hope one day we will eventually be able to end the word.”