Having a conversation about the r-word can be difficult and often uncomfortable. Use the dialogues and tips below to help you successfully articulate why the r-word is hurtful and harmful in everyday speech.
Dialogue Scenario 1: When a friend/family member uses the r-word
Person 1: I am such a retard; I forgot to get milk at the grocery store.
Person 2: Hey, I would appreciate it if you didn’t use the word retard around me anymore.
Person 1: Oh don’t worry about it; it’s not a big deal.
Person 2: It actually is a big deal, when you use retard as a synonym for stupid or idiot, you are saying that all people with intellectual disabilities are stupid, and that’s definitely not true.
Person 1: But I’m not making fun of people who are mentally retarded, it’s just a figure of speech. It’s how I talk.
Person 2: The thing is, when you use the R-word as slang, you really are hurting people with intellectual disabilities because of the negative connotation of your comment. The R-word has been associated with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities since its inception, so when you use the word in a negative context, you’re putting down people with intellectual disabilities, regardless of if you mean to or not.
Person 1: I appreciate what you’re saying, but it’s imbedded into my vocabulary. I couldn’t stop saying it if I tried.
Person 2: I’m not trying to tell you what you can or cannot say, but what I want you to recognize is that people with intellectual disabilities deserve respect, and using another word instead of the R-word is one step towards making them feel respected and valued in society.
Person 1: Ok, I can understand it might be hurtful to use the word when a person with an intellectual disability is around, but why does it matter now, when I’m just hanging out and joking with my friends?
Person 2: Using the R-word doesn’t just hurt people with intellectual disabilities, but it also hurt their friends and families. [Discuss personal story about why this is important to you]. Having seen the hurt that the R-word can cause, I know it’s important for me to take a stand and try to change the conversation. I hope you can understand why it hurts and upsets me when the R-word is used and why I would appreciate if you chose another word to use.
Person 1: I’m sorry; I didn’t realize how much the R-word upset you. I will try to use another word instead.
Person 2: Thank you for understanding.
Tips for a successful conversation:
- Stay calm and collected, it will not help the other person see your point if you are angry and emotional.
- Try to understand the reason he/she disagrees with you. Listen, be respectful and then provide a counterargument that highlights the harmful and hurtful effects of using the R-word.
- Share a personal story about why the R-word is hurtful to you. Personal stories will help people more easily relate to what you are saying because it illustrates your personal commitment to the campaign.
- If you encounter a question you are unable to answer, direct the individual to the Spread the Word to End the Word website (http://www.r-word.org/) to learn more about the campaign, Special Olympics and Best Buddies.