The ‘r’ Word Campaign
When we began The ‘r’ Word Campaign Web site in April of 2007 there was no one speaking out nationally about the ‘r’ word or the attitude of prejudice and discrimination towards people with disabilities it perpetuates. This site, The ‘r’ Word Campaign, was the first site in the nation to address and bring attention to the hateful and harmful use of the ‘r’ word.
We began the site as a result of two unrelated events that made us decide it was time to stand-up, speak out, and empower anyone offended by this word.
The first event occurred after our family became separated while in a Walmart store with our daughter with disabilities and her 8 year old sister. Our younger daughter had stopped to look at some clothes while we walked on with her sister who has significant disabilities. A short time later our younger daughter came running up to us crying. She would not tell us until after we had left the store that a couple of men had walked past her and while looking at her sister said, “I don’t know why they let people like that live.” We were out of earshot and did not hear the comment.
The second event in April 2007 was a joking racial slur by national radio disc jockey Don Imus referring to Rutgers basketball players which provoked national civil rights leaders to step forward in outrage. It was at that point we realized there was no one, no national civil rights leaders, no one at all standing up and providing a voice against the daily slurs that occur to people with disabilities. It was at that point The ‘r’ Word Campaign was formed. http://stopsayingretard.files.wordpress.com/2009/04/pressrelease-1.pdf
At the time there were several other voices out there like pebbles thrown in a pond creating tiny ripples. Jenna Glatzer had created her ‘My Words Matter Pledge’ in 2004 http://www.jennaglatzer.com and Soeren Palumbo had given his first high school speech earlier that year http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CoqaNG0Ozqc Soeren’s speech grew to receive coverage in several TV stations along the east coast.
Then in August of 2008 the movie, “Tropic Thunder” was released and the national Special Olympics started their R-Word site and picked up national television coverage through the organized protests of their chapters, at that point our Web site had been on-line for well over a year.
Our campaign was created to be and still is a grass-roots effort to bring awareness to this hateful word and empower people to stand-up and say something. We receive many requests for stickers, buttons and posters from schools and teachers we have limited funding to provide very much. Everything we have comes from our own pockets or from what few donations we receive, but we have been able to provided many materials on our Web site for downloading free of charge.
You see, it’s not just about a simple word. It’s about the hate and discrimination that is perpetuated by it. Even now we periodically receive hate comments like this recent one;
“i pledge the next time i see a retard i will call him a retard because thats what he (or she) is. This is because they are wasting the worlds money by doing nothing but sitting around and drooling. All retarts should be shot because they contribute nothing and just waste our money by feeding them ect. I hope i dont offend or angry any of you… retards.”
As long as this attitude persists, we welcome all efforts to see that it does not evolve to the next level on the Cycle of Prejudice and Hate …like it did for the Jewish people under Hitler… like we have seen it happen in our own country in the examples of a black man dragged behind a pick-up truck or a gay man tied to a fence post and beaten to death (both major news stories in recent years).
So our ‘r’ Word Campaign stands to speak for those who can not, empower those who don’t believe they have a voice and to help them see that others are standing up and speaking out… that things are changing… and that our words do make a difference.
In the end the ‘r’ Word Campaign is not about national protests or media campaigns, it is a much more personal effort than that. When a person stands up to tell someone else that this word offends them, it becomes a matter of respect.
And that is what we have said from the beginning. It’s about telling the people we meet in our day-to-day lives that this word hurts when we hear it and we would appreciate it if you would not use it in that way any longer.
It’s not about freedom of speech, it’s simply about respect.
Much has been accomplished but there is so much more to do. If you have not already we invite you to join in this effort. And if you already have, we thank you and hope you will continue to do so for many years to come.
The “R” Word Campaign
NOTE: This site is an information resource. We believe the discussion should take place in schools, at work and every place this word is heard and found offensive. Any comments that do not reflect that effort or do not include a valid email address will not be approved.