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Spread the word to end the word

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More stories from Taylor Petring

A star in the making
October 31, 2018
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Spread the word to end the word

Choose kindness, choose empathy, and choose anything but this word.

Choose kindness, choose empathy, and choose anything but this word.

Taylor Petring

Choose kindness, choose empathy, and choose anything but this word.

Taylor Petring

Taylor Petring

Choose kindness, choose empathy, and choose anything but this word.

Standing up out of my desk, all eyes on me, I feel my cheeks getting red and steam coming out of my ears. Asking my teacher to get water, I storm out of the classroom.

My friend chases after me, not knowing what is wrong. The R-word was said directly to me.

Growing up with my dad working as a special education teacher, I have always been surrounded by laughs and smiles from the kids who were born with disabilities.

From being in a classroom, hearing a student use the R-word and my teacher saying “Do not use that word.”; I was consumed by the word and its effect on me. I went to talk to my dad about what that word actually meant.

He told me “That word was used to describe the special needs kids up until 2004, where it became an inappropriate word, and nowadays kids use it to make fun of others if they are acting dumb instead of using the word dumb.”

One person couldn’t just wrap their head around the idea that this might be offensive, demeaning and just plain hurtful, and despite my own and others’ requests to drop it, I couldn’t.

Every time I hear the R-word I ask myself, “That’s the hill they want to die upon? Really?” Do they really want to be known as someone who is inconsiderate about others’ disabilities?”

Most of the time it’s a case of they-just-didn’t-think-or-know-better. They usually make amends, and we all move on. This is done because people might not see this as a big deal because it’s just a word that they think doesn’t have any significance to anyone.

You’ve been asked to not use a word you said when you were on the playground as a 10-year-old. Haven’t you changed since then? You used to think One Direction was the best band ever. Do you still? Didn’t think so. Perhaps it’s time to embrace that using the R-word or saying “that’s r….ed.” makes you sound about as outdated as an 8-track player.

I understand that it might slip out when talking to people sometimes. However, using the R-word is wrong and out of context. There are a variety of other words you can use.

If you’re kind enough to hold a door for someone, why can’t you hold your tongue about a single word?

In a study of 1,169 kids between the ages of eight to 18 years old, 92% percent said they have heard someone use the R-word out of context.

If you use that word, you are making fun of kids that were born different than you. You may not even mean for it to come out that way, but the people around you might hear it in a negative way.

There is always that one person who will argue against this by saying, ”Oh why can’t I say the ‘N’ word cause rappers do?” You’re not Jay-Z. And no, I’m not a fan of that word either. When you defend your right to use the “R” word, that’s what you sound like to me — just as ridiculous.

Things can be fire retardant,  and thank goodness for such a technological advance. I am firmly against things catching fire. I am also against you pretending this argument is valid when you try to compare fire-retardant-treated items and the phrase, “That’s r…..ed!” as the same.

It’s not. One keeps kids’ pajamas from catching fire. The other is used to link a human being to an object that no one wants or values.

The R-word is a word that affects me in a way that it shouldn’t. It shouldn’t make me mad. It shouldn’t make me want to scream every time I hear it.

I can’t understand why I get so worked up over people defending their right to use the R-word. Hear what I am about to say: you’re not offended until it affects you. Then you will be up in arms, so understand this is my up-in-arms moment and always will be.

It boils down to this: be kind. Compassion is missing far too often in this world. You may say, “I didn’t mean your kiddo,” but here’s the thing — you referred to somebody’s kid. Another human being who has a family and friends. Likes and dislikes. Strengths and weaknesses. Something to offer this Earth we all live on.

We all have many battles to fight, but don’t let this be the hill you choose to die upon. Choose kindness, choose empathy, and choose anything but this word.

Choose to have an open mind.

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