Column: Eliminate hurtful slurs

Sierra Falk, Staff Reporter

This past Saturday, I attended the Special Olympics Family Festival located in Mattoon. The Family Festival is essentially an event where several different games, crafts and activities are set up for you to show the athletes a great time. Each volunteer is partnered with one of the athletes where one is able to serve as a “friend for a day” and get to visit the different attractions with their buddy.

This was my first year participating and I could not have imagined having a greater experience. The buddy I was partnered with was so incredibly sweet, loving, caring, funny and intelligent. Every minute spent with her had me laughing, smiling and fighting back tears of joy.

The event overall was an incredibly rewarding experience. With me being an emotionally empathetic person, I found myself several times crying tears of joy because the happiness and appreciation for this event was overwhelmingly contagious.

While I normally would have spent my Saturday morning being a couch potato, I just had the most amazing time meeting a new friend and spending the day with her. As I drove home from the event, I began to think about the generic use of the R-word. I just had the most amazing day with my buddy and the thought of anyone using the R-word towards her made me sick to my stomach.

When looking at the use of the R-word as an English major, there are so many negative connotations associated with the word. The R-word is often used in place of a word like “stupid” or “wrong” or anything that is generally deemed as unpleasant.

When one associates unpleasant events to a word like the R-word, it develops a stigma that becomes forever associated with that term. Then, when the R-word is used in order to label a person with a disability, all of these negative associations essentially are involuntarily attached to the word and now in the context which it is being used.

After developing such a close bond with my buddy this past weekend, it breaks my heart that anyone should try to label her in such a demeaning manner.

There are many words that are used colloquially that have underlying meanings that can harm others. Whether intentional or not, these messages can be perceived as offensive and discouraging. When someone uses a derogatory and labeling term such as the R-word, it sends a rather malicious message that the user has disregarded the negative and harmful connotations associated with this word and would rather insult someone rather than simply picking a different, more appropriate adjective.

I myself am not perfect and I am sure I have used derogatory labeling at some point in my life. However, in growing up I have taken on the effort to educate myself on these infractions within our social norms.

Just because people “use it all the time” does not make words any less offensive or immoral. Sticks and stones may break bones, but some words hurt much, much more.

 

Sierra Falk is a senior English language arts major. She can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]