It’s time to retire the “R-word”

The Area 5 Bulldogs went 8-1 last year and won the district championship.
The Area 5 Bulldogs went 8-1 last year and won the district championship. Submitted photo

We’ve all been there, sitting in class when your professor hands out a huge, time-consuming assignment that no one wants to do. “Ugh, this is so retarded,” your friend says as everyone nods and agrees. Heck, maybe you were even the one that said it. It’s a normal phrase and people don’t think about it.

But we should think about it. The R-word is not only offensive, but also exclusionary. Judging someone and classifying them by their intellectual ability is no different than judging someone by the color of their skin, their religion or their sexual orientation, all of which are wrong.

“Well for one, that word is very hurtful,” point guard for the Area 5 Big Rapids Bulldogs Special Olympics basketball team Nick Borders said. “Nobody should use it. People with disabilities are just the same as normal people; we should never be treated different.”

Borders, 31, from Big Rapids, is arguably the Ferris State Bulldogs’ biggest supporter and fan. He comes to almost every sporting event to cheer on Ferris athletes. Borders knows distinctly what it’s like to be labeled with the derogatory word.

“When people call me that, I just say ‘Whatever’ and I walk away. I try not cry but it’s tough,” Borders said.

This is why we should think about it. The word can hurt feelings. By thinking about the people being harmed by its use, we are taking the first step in the right direction to cut the word out of our vocabulary.

I know people always say, “I didn’t mean anything by it,” or “What’s the big deal?” But the slur is almost always used when talking negatively about something. Think about it, no one ever said, “Hey! Did you see last weeks episode of ‘Grey’s Anatomy?’ It was so retarded; I loved it.” But they have said, “They killed off my favorite doctor again on ‘Grey’s Anatomy.’ It was so retarded.”

How would you feel if a word that used to be used as a diagnosis for you was now used as a synonym for stupid, dumb or unpleasant? There is a negative connotation attached to it. It prevents people with intellectual and cognitive disabilities from being viewed as equals. The word is offensive, hurtful and downright wrong.

So next time you are complaining about something or want to call someone a name, choose a different word. If you can’t think of one, buy a dictionary.