From the JFA Moderator: Rahm Emanuel's comment and the associated reaction has stirred a national debate about language sensitivity, respect and the R-Word just in time for the Spread the Word to End the Word National Awareness Day (scheduled for March 3, 2010). From Washington, DC to Los Angeles newspaper columnists, radio show hosts and television commentators have voiced their opinions on this topic. Find below a small selection of the diverse opinions flying around and the reactions of disability leadership, self-advocates and allies. If you are inspired to Spread the Word to End the Word, sign the pledge, register a Spread the Word to End the Word event, or find a 3.3.10 event near you at www.r-word.org. As of Feb. 19th, 2010 there have been over 67,000 pledges made to Spread the Word to End the Word.
From the Washington Post:The case against banning the word 'retard'
...It's not that I've come to praise the word "retard"; I just don't think we should bury it. If the history of offensive terms in America shows anything, it is that words themselves are not the culprit; the meaning we attach to them is, and such meanings change dramatically over time and across communities...Defending the word 'retard' is not heroic
By Michael Gerson
...Professor Christopher Fairman [above]...takes to The Post today to defend the word “retard”
against taboo, censorship and other forms of social repression. He
argues that the r-word must be rescued from the terrible fate of the
f-word. Even the n-word has “varied and evolving uses.”
There are many intentionally offensive elements of this case. But the most disturbing is a dismissive attitude toward the struggles of the disabled. The comparison between the r-word and the n-word, according to Fairman, is “overblown.” “’Retard,’ however harsh, pales in comparison.”
I’d recommend that Fairman and others who hold this view take a look at War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race, by Edwin Black -- one of the most disturbing books about America ever written. It recounts efforts by distinguished scientists, academics, industrialists, health officials and jurists through much of the 20th century to “direct human evolution” by waging war against people with developmental and physical disabilities...
Given this history, the r-word does not seem so innocuous. And defending it does not seem so heroic...
Timothy Shriver, President and CEO of Special Olympics Responds to Fairman's defense of the R-Word in
The bigotry behind the word 'retard'
...I believe he missed the point of the campaign by people who have intellectual disabilities, their friends, advocates and tens of thousands of individuals and dozens of organizations: We are fighting a word because it represents one of the most stubborn and persistent stigmas in history. Millions of people have a prejudice they often are not even aware of. It is much bigger than a word, but words matter. And the word "retard," whatever its history, reflects a massive problem...
From the Los Angeles Times (2.11.10):
Wronged by the 'R-word'
How about letting Rahm Emanuel and the White House deal with healthcare instead of a manufactured controversy?
by Meghan Daum
...The "R-word" in question is not "recession" or "reform" (as in healthcare) or even "recall" (as in Toyota) but "retarded...
...By all appearances, Emanuel hasn't joined Shriver's cause as much as he's been bullied into performing community service for it. And that, I dare say, is a [insert your word of choice here] waste of time. Not only because there are better people for the job (those with expertise in the rights of the developmentally disabled) but because Emanuel surely has other "R-words" to deal with.
From the Arc of Northern Virginia via L'Arche USA (Feb. 2010)
...As you may be aware, L'Arche USA has joined with many individuals and organizations in a nation-wide campaign - sponsored by Special Olympics and The Arc - to raise awareness about the harm caused to people and to our larger society by use of the R (retard) word. This lovely video endorses another R-word: respect. To view the video, please click the following link: http://www.blueberryshoes.com/psa/index.html.
Director of Development and Communications