An Open Letter to the Person Who Still Uses the “R Word”

Your negative associations are slowly poisoning the true meaning of an incredibly beautiful, exclusive word.

What do you mean you didn’t “mean it like that”?

You said it. People don’t say things just for the hell of it. It has one definition. Merriam-Webster defines it as “to be less advanced in mental, physical or social development than is usual for one’s age.” So, when you were “retarded drunk” this past weekend, as you claim, were you diagnosed with a physical or mental disability? When you called your friend “retarded,” did you realize that you were actually falsely labeling them as handicapped? Don’t correct yourself with words like “stupid,” “dumb” or “ignorant”, when I call you out. Sharpen your vocabulary a little more and broaden your horizons, because I promise you that if people with disabilities could banish that word forever, they would. Especially when people associate it with drunks, bad decisions, idiotic statements, their enemies and other meaningless issues. Oh trust me, they are way more than that.

I’m not quite sure if you have had your eyes opened as to what a disabled person is capable of, but let me go ahead and lay it out there for you. My best friend has Down Syndrome, and when I tell people that their initial reaction is, “Oh that is so nice of you! You are so selfless to hang out with her.” Well, thanks for the compliment, but she is a person; a living, breathing, normal girl who has feelings, friends, thousands of abilities, knowledge and compassion out the wazoo. She listens better than anyone I know, she gets more excited to see me than anyone I know, and she works harder at her hobbies, school work and sports than anyone I know. She attends a private school, is a member of the swim team, has won multiple events in the Special Olympics, is in the school choir and could quite possibly be the most popular girl at her school! So yes, I would love to take your compliment, but please realize that most people who are labeled as “disabled” are actually more “able” than normal people. I hang out with her because she is one of the people who has so effortlessly taught me simplicity, gratitude, strength, faith, passion, love, genuine happiness and so much more.

Speaking for the people who cannot defend themselves: choose a new word.

The trend has gone out of style, just like smoking cigarettes or not wearing your seat belt. It is poisonous, it is ignorant and it is low class. As I explained above, most people with disabilities are actually more capable than a normal human because of their advantageous ways of making people’s day and unknowingly changing lives. Hang out with a handicapped person, even if it is just for a day. I can 100 percent guarantee you will bite your tongue next time you go to use the term out of context. Hopefully you at least think of my friend, who in my book is a hero, a champion and an overcomer. Don’t use the “R Word.” You are way too good for that. Stand up and correct someone today.

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Written by Kaitlin Murray, an Odyssey contributor. 
Kaitlin Murray
To me, there is no greater feeling than finding people that share the same ideas, sense of humor, goals, feelings, and passions as you. It makes you feel relatable, and that is why I write.

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