Get Rid of the R-Word


Most people have stopped using the n-word, thank God. It's offensive, demeaning, and reminiscent of an extremely painful past for African Americans. An equally offensive word for people living with disabilities is the r-word, which I'll name here only to make clear what I'm talking about, "retarded," and it's even more offensive cousin, "retard."

Recently, President Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, used the term "retarded" to describe a proposal made by a group of fellow democrats. To be fair, perhaps Emanuel did not know that this term is offensive to many people. This outburst became a teachable moment. Special Olympics chair and CEO Timothy Shriver contacted Emanuel to let him know the offense caused by the r-word. To his credit, Emanuel apologized and pledged to make a public commitment to cease his use of the r-word in a derogatory way. Shriver recently wrote an editorial in the Washington Post calling readers not just to change their language, but their hearts.

You too can make that same public pledge at a website sponsored by Special Olympics: A lovely and brief video was produced recently which presents an alternative r-word. This video would work well during any worship service whose theme is respecting fellow humans as image-bearers of God.

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