More Than Playground Profanity
If certain words aren't acceptable, maybe it's time to end them.
Recess is a little like Vegas: what happens on the playground stays on the playground.
I reassure myself that, at my son’s age, he’s not withholding information as much as he’s just completely oblivious of anything going on besides his latest reenactment of Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
I don’t need an eyewitness report to know the type of language school-aged kids sometimes use when parents and teachers are out of earshot—I still remember learning a couple of four-letter words and a choice gesture on the school bus.
It’s an opportunity for kids to test their limits and attempt to act grown-up (if it’s OK for our former governor. . .). Under the best circumstances, it’s all bravado and no one gets hurt.
But there’s another class of words, words that are disrespectful, harmful and always inappropriate. They are minority slurs that include the N-word and the R-word.
Yes, there’s an R-word.
I’m certain my friends and I used the word, “retard,” in grade school. We didn’t stop to think how offensive the word might be, only that it could be used to describe something or someone we considered dumb. To be honest, the word seemed rather harmless at the time.
It still might be easy for some kids—and adults, too—to ignore the R-word, or consider it innocuous, if they don’t make the connection between the word and people who have intellectual or other disabilities. But if you know, care for or happen to be a person with an intellectual disability, it’s nearly impossible to ignore.
Since my grade school days, I’ve come to count people with disabilities among my colleagues and friends. This coming school year, my daughter will attend a school where some of her classmates will have disabilities. I’ve seen how much it hurts when people first take into consideration what you can’t do, rather than what you can do, and how hard people with disabilities work to overcome stereotypes.
People throughout our broader community are now taking up the charge to “Spread the Word to End the Word.” Earlier this week Glee co-stars Lauren Potter and Jane Lynch released a bold (and fabulous, I might add) public service announcement that presents the argument in no uncertain terms.
Regardless of whether parents are listening—and whether you call Earth or the Clones’ planet Kamino home—the R-word should be absent on playgrounds, in schools and from online messages. And it’s up to us to teach our children why.
What do we have to lose, but hate?
To learn more about the "Spread the Word to End the Word" campaign and view the Not Acceptable PSA, visit R-word.org.