It is time to “Spread the Word to End the Word,” and tomorrow, 31 March, events throughout the United States and around the world will make people stop and think about their hurtful and disparaging use of the word “retard.”
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 disabilities, their families and friends. Using "retard" as a term of derision is just as cruel and offensive as any other slur.
What It's All AboutSpread the Word to End the Word will raise the consciousness of society about the dehumanizing and hurtful effects of the R-word and encourage people to pledge to stop using it. America will be asked to declare their support for more respectful and inclusive language, specifically that referring to those with intellectual disabilities.
"The earlier we can start teaching this awareness, the easier it will be to reverse the language, " wrote James Saetern of Sacramento, California, in an e-mail to Special Olympics. "This is not just a day of awareness, but a movement to end hate as a whole."
Ideas are pouring in. To date, we have heard of more than 700 events and activities happening throughout the United States – and around the world. They range from tables set up in malls, to grade-school assemblies on differences to all-day kiosks and movies at college campuses. The commitment and creativity are growing. Below is a sampling of events planned for tomorrow:
Spread the Word to End the Word online youth rally Live stream at www.schooltube.com, 12:35 PM Eastern Time. The 50-minute rally will feature actor Eddie Barbanell from the hit movie “The Ringer,” Special Olympics athletes and volunteers, and original music performed by rap artist Rush. Also on the program are original videos produced by young people. High school students across the country will be asked to take the pledge to stop using the “R” word and to help raise awareness among their friends. The rally is being produced by Miami Palmetto Senior High School 11th-grader Noah Gray, Special Olympics Florida and SchoolTube.
Take The R-word Pledge Rallies
American University, Beirut, LebanonSoeren Palumbo's R-word speech played hourly; movie at 6 p.m., "The Loretta Claiborne Story"; posters, pictures, online R-word signups.
All high schools in Delaware, USAAll 40,000 students will be asked to sign pledge boards in their schools.
Tower Hill School, Newark, NJ, USASpread the Word day as culmination of a week of exploring disabilities
Fort Worth Independent School District, Fort Worth, TX, USA, all dayLunch-time rallies, video shows, student testimonials and R-word pledge boards
University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, USA, all day in high traffic areasSign pledge boards, visit www.r-word.org, get information.
Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI, USA, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. in five campus locationsSee posters, sign pledge boards, talk with committed volunteers and Special Olympics athletes.
University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE, USA, all day in student unionSign the pledge board, talk about why you support the campaign, get stickers, buttons and bracelets
Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, USA, all day on campusSign the R-word pledge, see big-screen displays of Special Olympics and R-word videos.
Slippery Rock University, Slippery Rock, PA, USA, all day on campusSign pledge boards, get buttons, bracelets and stickers for free, buy T-shirts
How It StartedCreated by young people with and without intellectual disabilities, Spread the Word to End the Word is one element of Special Olympics’ vision of a world where everyone matters, where everyone is accepted and, most importantly, where everyone is valued. Leading the way in promoting acceptance of people with intellectual disabilities, Special Olympics opposes prejudice and discrimination, continuously working to dispel the negative stereotypes associated with this population — the use of the R-word being one such stereotype. In a world that has worked to eliminate pejorative racial and ethnic language such as the “N word,” among others, the R-word is gaining popularity.
Tomorrow, young people across the country will lead local efforts to raise awareness and collect pledges on www.r-word.org from peers and the community to vow not to use the R-word. Actor and activist John C. McGinley, of the hit show “Scrubs,” is helping with this effort by making national media appearances on behalf of the campaign.
What YOU Can Do
Send us your plans to Spread the Word at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Take the R-word pledge to not use the word "retard" as a put-down
Download Spread the Word to End the Word resources
After 31 March, let us know how your Spread the Word event went. Send a report, photos and videos to email@example.com