Think Before You Speak

November 23, 2011
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‘Ah, Saturday nights are so peaceful,’ I thought to myself. With my friend Meagan sitting next to me and the tranquil Texas scenery surrounding us, we felt unstoppable. There were others amongst us, including a teenage girl with auburn hair and dark green eyes. She was laying her head against another teen, this one a boy who sported short, brown hair and a killer tan. We watched the sunset ease itself down onto the horizon, watched the colors fade to light orange. Nothing could go wrong. That is, until the girl commented, “It looks like the moon will come out soon, right honey?” The adolescent boy replied, “That’s retarded!” The moon won’t come out for two more hours.” I was appalled. How dare he use such disrespectful language, especially with my friend Meagan here, who has Special Needs? I wanted so badly to cover her ears and erase the memory of his words, which hung suspended in the air. I stood up and courageously said, “Do you realize the price of your words?” He looked at me as if I was a wild child. “Whatever,” was all he replied. I woke up in a panic, sweat dripping down my face. I felt horrified and terrible. Even though I was dreaming, my heart ached with pain for those affected by the use of ridiculing language. There, in my bed at 2 am, I decided I am not going to let people misuse the term. I am determined to make a difference in the world.
“You’re such a loser!,” “You’re dumb!,” You’re a retard!!” In my daily teenage life, I hear vulgar and insulting words all the time. Words that, to the speaker, seem innocent, but to the receiver appear hateful and conceited. The use of this vocabulary affects many individuals, whether they are disabled or not. No, I’m not talking to you about the ‘elementary school’ words “Shut up!,” or even “You dummy.” These terms have been used to describe one who needs to be quiet, or who appears stupid. Society has deemed these words as acceptable.
American culture has also allowed the word “retarded” to be used in an inappropriate manner. “Retarded” used to describe a fellow individual who looks, thinks, and acts differently; a person with Special Needs. Nowadays, the term is used inappropriately. It is used as a target of ridicule, directed towards another human being who is acting ‘stupid’, or merely different. The improper use of this word has had a vast effect on those with intellectual disabilities and those who work with them.


Before, I was probably like you, a mere bystander uneducated and oblivious as to why a word could have so much affect. Then, I started to volunteer with Special Olympics, games for the disabled. The organization has opened up my eyes and allowed me to see just how amazing and talented those with disabilities are. They are the light that shines through the darkness, the joy of my life. I wouldn’t trade my relationship with the athletes and my friends for anything. They are the reason why I want to put an end to the “R-Word”-retarded.


The R- Word has been used inappropriately across the nation. It appears in TV shows, daily vocabulary, and even in politics. More often than not, adolescents are guilty of unnecessary use of the R- Word. These teenagers are unknowingly using the word as an insult. I once heard a peer at school use the Word, and when I questioned her as to why she was saying it, she responded “It’s only a word. Geez, you don’t need to make such a big deal about it.” Now even though this individual is remaining anonymous, many are revealing their identity to the world- people such as Comedians, Teachers, Coaches, Celebrities, and many more influencers. The use of the derogatory language is most commonly aimed towards a dumb idea, an odd looking figure, un-intelligent peers, and even something as arbitrary as a pencil, which is about as accurate as saying David is taller than Goliath. Contrary to popular belief, the inappropriate use of the words “retard” or “retarded” in a ridiculing manner is never, ever acceptable.
I feel very passionate about ending the word because many of my dearest friends have Intellectual Disabilities. They have to work so much harder just to live life to the fullest. While a Regular Ed student is able to take notes, follow the teacher’s directions, block out unwanted noise, and make friends, many Special Ed students cannot. So while fellow students are able to learn calculus diligently, the high school student with Intellectual Disabilities is struggling with basic adding and subtracting. The lesson learned? Think before you speak.





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