By Jo Ann Simons, Ruderman Family Foundation Disabilities Advisor and CEO, Cardinal Cushing Centers
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
Most of us have heard this saying during childhood, but the student speaker at last month’s Cardinal Cushing Centers graduation really brought into focus how far it misses the mark. Erik began his graduation speech with the usual expressions of gratitude, but then he said: “People say that ‘sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you.’ People are wrong. Words do hurt.”
Ask any special education students or their families what they think of the words “retarded” and “retard” and they will tell you: they hurt. This is poignantly demonstrated in this moving video.
Why do we continue to use words after we have been told they hurt?
Special Olympics, Best Buddies and over 200 other organizations around the world have joined together to Spread the Word to End the Word™ and build awareness for society to stop and think about its use of the R-word. That R-word is something hurtful and painful – “retard” or “retarded.” Most people don’t think of this word as hate speech, but that’s exactly what it feels like to millions of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, their families, and friends. The R-word is just as cruel and offensive as any other slur, as is made clear here by a couple of Glee cast members.
As I have learned about this movement for the humanity and dignity of people with intellectual disabilities, the Ruderman Family Foundation has decided not to allow the use of this word in any of our communications or business. The R-word has no place in philanthropy or society.
Please join me in raising the consciousness of society about the dehumanizing and hurtful effects of the word “retard(ed)” and pledge to stop using the R-word. Please visit www.r-word.org to make your pledge today to spread the word to end the word. I did.
— Jo Ann Simons