Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A shocking video to get people to quit saying "retard"

"I call my nieces retards and they love it. Retard is a term of endearment."

That response to my little campaign against the use of the word "retard" on Twitter haunts me, along with other negative ones it received. The level of insensitivity and ignorance was extreme, and the name-calling was the least of it. People got up in arms—and downright defensive—about being asked to reconsider using a word that is so offensive to parents of kids with special needs, people with disabilities, and people in general who have a heart/brain.

There's no ignoring the new public service announcement, "Not Acceptable," from the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign. It's airing tonight during the Glee finale, but you're getting a first look here.



I am all for the shock treatment when it involves a cause like this; clearly, some people need it. Do you get it now? I'd like to ask naysayers. Do you? It's a nasty word, a slur like other words you'd never use. Would you say "retard" at work now? Would you say it in front of your priest or rabbi now? Would you say it in front of your mother?

I hope this PSA has the effect it's intended to have. Besides Fox, MTV, TNT, CNN and several other networks have committed to featuring it. The more we can get the conversation going about this word, the more awareness will be raised. And the more awareness raised means the more people will think twice about using "retard" or "retarded." Even if you dig in your heels, even if you call your nieces "retards," you will surely have some pause the next time you say it.

What kind of reaction did you have to the video?

Update: A year after this video aired, I made one of my own, Would You Call My Child A Retard? Check it out here

43 comments:

  1. It's a great campaign. I was on the press conference call and had the honor of asking questions of Lauren Potter, the actress on Glee in the PSA, and I think it's great that it's getting so much attention. Glee did a great job a few weeks back as well on mental health, separating the condition from the person (in that case, OCD). I hope we can eventually eliminate the "i" word (insane) as well!

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  2. I love it and I'm glad so many networks are showing it. Glee is such a popular show and it touches on so many important issues in today's society. I think the video is shocking but it's true and sometimes people need a shock to realize something is hurtful.

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  3. I admit to letting the R word fly on occasion simply because I am being ignorant and it is habit....I don't know there isn't really an excuse I did stop in response to your campaign. What I don't understand is people's vehement attachment to the word. I get why it matters so much to people to STOP using it. But why does it matter so desperately to people to continue using a word that other people have stepped up and said, "Hey! That hurts me." What is the attachment?

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  4. It's a great campaign and I believe in it completely, I would have no problem telling anyone that word is not acceptable. It's good to see a major campaign getting that message across but I wouldn't say it is shocking, I do however hope that it works.

    I was really surprised at the flak and ignorance that was shown to you on Twitter when you wrote about using the R word.

    I fear it is going to be some time before everyone gets the message.

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  5. So glad to see this PSA! I have family members that use the R word and I have asked them to stop. Unfortunately one family member continues to use it and it is really upsetting. I have to figure out a way to show her this without adding more strain on our relationship. :(

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  6. Love it, thanks for sharing. I have added it to my Facebook status.

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  7. Oh wow. JUST wow. what an amazing video

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  8. Yes, a great campaign.

    I just erased the comment that said "That was f---- retarded," I don't have profanity on this blog. I would have been glad to keep otherwise, as it shows the ignorance that's out there (and cowardice of hiding behind anonymity). I also erased a comment that repped the word and asked if I erased it because "I have something to hide." Ummmmmm.....

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  9. This video is awesome. I hope it works.

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  10. Awesome, awesome video! I'm definitely going to put this up on my Facebook page. Glee is so popular with people these days that no doubt this PSA will be seen by a LOT of people when it airs!

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  11. I loved it~~~ Adding it to my FB now!! Thanks for Sharing...I posted about the "R" word on my blog too....Its titled "Radish and Rumproast" :)

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  12. I posted this to my Facebook. I grew up with the word retard being quite common (I'm 36)...most of my friends used it on a regular basis. It was a constant work for years to stop it from coming out of my mouth in a casual joking way, but I never say it anymore.

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  13. Thank you. I am posting this all over the damn place.

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  14. It's amazing. I literally teared up while watching it because it's the same thing I've been trying to explain to defenders of the R word (why? why are there defenders??!) for some time now, and they just don't seem to get it. I hope this helps.

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  15. I loved it and immediately went out and tweeted it. Unfortunately I believe there are people who will laugh and delight in this in ways that are tragic. Hopefully though, those people are set on their path, but the many who haven't considered this might come over into the camp of understanding we are all precious and that in our everyday choices we have immeasurable power.

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  16. I have never used the word UNTIL - I am embarrassed to admit it - I watched Hangover and by changing up the pronunciation it seemed funny and somehow more innocent, but it's not. My kids are avid Gleeks, i will have to make sure they pay attention to this ad.

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  17. Ellen,

    I'm going to challenge you just a little bit here. Not that I think ANYONE should be using the word "retard" But are you just objecting to the slur...or also the concept behind it. I think its as much the latter as the former. Case in point, I'm sure you don't want to hear some of what I do from teen who have be well versed in the whole "Say the Word to end the word" thing. Such as "OMG I totally added up that bill wrong. LOL I've clearly got 'special needs.' or "How can you be friends with Emily, she' practically flunking every class, she like cognitively disabled."
    The word is bad, but so is the idea behind it and I think there needs to be a push to end both. (Although still trying to explain to my daughter why no one gets worked up over "Did you not see me standing here. What are ya blind?")

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  18. Anon Y Mous: I'm objecting to this word in particular because of it's rampant and flippant use—and to the underlying issue, which is that it demeans people who have disabilities. See my original post on this, linked in first line of post. Any language that demeans people with disabilities is language to be condemned. Again, though, this word is all over the place, which is The Special Olympics itself created a campaign against it.

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  19. Ellen. I do understand your point. Mine is that in the upscale community in which I live, kids have been pretty well educated about the "wrongness" of the R word. And they don't use it. In fact when my great aunt used it, my teen was horrified. As horrified as she'd be if she heard someone using the N word. But it seems that the campaign for them has stopped only the use of the word. Maybe that's ennough. But I think there is a larger issue here. Would the "special needs" comment not bother you. I hope this doesn't sound like an angry exchange. I am really curious about this whole issue. And I apologize for the Anonymos comments, I can't get my google account to take today...no idea why!

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  20. I said this on someone elses blog once and got some people quite fired up...although not intentionally. But it's just a thought I have, and would love to hear other's (kind) responses.
    Let me start by saying I DO NOT, nor is it allowed in our house, use the r word. I correct friends. I have posted on my blog about it. I am adamantly not okay with people saying something or someone is r...
    I have an uneasy feeling with comparing it to a racial slur though. I have a black daughter, with special needs. If I walked into a doctors office and came across a chart that described her as the r word I would have something to say to that doctor, and would likely find a different one. If I came across a chart that used the N word to describe my daughter we would walk out, no questions asked, and report it.
    When someone uses the r work I am offended. The times I have heard the N word associated with my daughter I have feared for our safety.
    I am all for a campaign to end the r word! I think the commercial is great because it will help people (especially young people) understand the seriousness of the word. I loved your tweeting about it.

    Andrea

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  21. Excellent point. Yes, "special needs" used as an insult is awful, too (I've also seen that on Twitter).

    Obviously, there is a larger underlying problem here: respect for those who have special needs, and understanding. Acceptance of differences.

    To me, this campaign may be targeted to one word, but I hope that it generally raises awareness about consideration and sensitivity to people with special needs. It is a START, it is most definitely not the answer. I don't have any delusions that even if the word goes away (which it won't), the world will magically stop being derisive towards people with special needs. But a campaign likes this starts conversations, gets people talking.

    I'd hope that parents, teachers and other educators use this campaign to launch discussions about demeaning words/terms and respect for people with special needs.

    That is my hope.

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  22. Andrea: I hear you. The "n" word has its own set of baggage, as does the "k" word and others. There are differences to the usages of the words, different sensitivities, different histories. The word "retard" was once an acceptable word to use to describe a person with mental disabilities; those other words were always pejorative, I believe. But the fact that they are all offensive is the message this PSA is getting across, and I think that's fair to say.

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  23. Thank you for posting this. I shared it on Twitter, Tumblr, and on my Facebook with a link back to your blog, in hopes that those who think I'm ridiculous for finding the word offensive will maybe come back here and read your original post. Education, education, education.

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  24. I think the PSA is great. I never said the R word growing up because it was treated like a negative epithet. It has been very interesting in the last few months when I interrupt a seemingly innocent conversation to tell the person that they "Just shouldn't use the word retarded." I finally realized that I shouldn't let anyone I meet continue to use words that are hateful or hurtful, Just recently I interrupted two boys I heard talking in an aisle at Target, and gave a family member a reminder. It's pretty easy to nip it in the bud, and perhaps this PSA will make sense to some people.

    Thanks for all your efforts Ellen.

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  25. This is a great campaign, and honestly, it gave me goose bumps, but the emphasis should be on treating people as people who deserve respect, not just getting rid of a word. If that's all it is, people will find something else. At a school where I used to teach, the kids used the term "sped" -- short for special education. If someone did something silly or foolish, kids would say "stop being such a sped." It's hard to teach respect. It goes so much beyond the words we use.

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  26. I love it! And I'm glad they finally have a PSA about it!!!! I'll never forget the first time I saw a PSA about using gay, as in "that's so gay" it was Wanda sikes, and she over hears some boys say it, tells them they shouldn't and then continues to say "what if I said 'that's so 16 year old boy with a korny mustache" Love her!! and when I saw that I thought they should so do that with the r-word!!! Kudos to Glee and everyone else involved, for taking a stand!!!

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  27. I think this is great. Ultimately, it is about respecting all people. Can't wait to see the reactions.

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  28. Posted everywhere. Oh my gods I want to hug everyone involved in this PSA.

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  29. Clearly this campaign is about stopping people from comparing themselves or others to someone with a different ability in a negative way. The biggest and most common way is by using the "r" word. It goes without saying that it isn't just the WORD, it's how people use it. That is for the people who will comment things like "You mean I can't call something fire retardant?" It also goes without saying that saying "sped" and "short bus" are also derogatory and hurtful. I am sure we can go on and on here about ALL of the things we say that might offend some group (idiot, lunatic, crazy et.) This campaign has made me aware of those things as well, and while I don't go around correcting people who say "idiot," I have become aware of what comes out of my mouth. People who want to argue obviously like to stir the pot and I just ignore them. We had a segment done by a local news crew at a Down's Syndrome play group in which I work with a little boy. It was so well done, but the comments on the newspage made me physically ill. Then I realized that we can't change the world, but we can change the people who aren't using the word mailciously and are honestly surprised when they are made aware of how hurtful it is. The others? At the very least, they will never be able to say that word again without some small reminder in their head that they are being rude. I figure that at the very least, we are all up in their head's and they can't make us go away (like a song you can't get out of your head.)

    One more thing, since this is about the PSA. I think it's great, but I tend to think that the biggest problem is not people calling someone with a disability the "r" word, it's more of the people using it to refer to themselves, or someone else in a joking way, which translates "I am such a r$%^ because I forgot my homework" to "I forgot my homework and not only does that make me dumb, it makes me AS DUMB AS THOSE PEOPLE."

    I hope this comes across as okay and I was clear with my point! I love the blog and comments!!

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  30. I agree... I cringe with the "retard" when I hear it.

    Are others just missing this sensitivity to this?

    Am I the only one?

    I think now.

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  31. Goosebumps and tears.

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  32. I love it! I think they nailed it!

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  33. Hi Ellen! Just wanted to let you know that ever since I read your original post regarding the R word that I have asked the people in my life to stop using the word. I have also posted a link to this post/video on my Facebook page.

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  34. I'm so thrilled the networks are going to air this. Awesome.

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  35. great message and powerfully delivered. I will be sharing.

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  36. Something similar happened years ago here in Italy with the word "mongolo" or "mongoloide", once used to define people with down syndrome, and also used with the exact same meaning as retarded. It took years but nowadays you barely hear that word around. So I think this campaign is going to succeed eventually.

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  37. Great campaign. I never use the word except recently I did use the word referring to myself (in a foreign language and I was asking someone at work why she was treating me as one. Retard should only be used with Flame retardANT!

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  38. this is fucking retarded. political correctness is such bullshit in this country

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  39. It's a wonderful campaign, one I fully support.

    My triplet sister has Cerebral Palsy and through her i've made many friends with a variety of handicaps. All they want is it be people and we should treat them as such. You said the "n-word" was always bad, but if you look back...that's not true. It was common! Some frowned upon it, but people still went around spitting it out left and right. and now...it's banned from society. We can do that here too!

    It's HURTFUL and I've been in one too many fights for it. It needs to stop now.

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  40. LOVE THIS CAMPAGIN!!! I work with special needs chidren and we are very concious about saying the HAVE a diagnoses and not they ARE a diagnosis. I hate that we still use the term "mentally retarded" when talking about the limitations of a develpomentally disabled. I LOVE my "kids" and will fight for them if ever I heard someone call them the "R" word. Still even with all that I too have been guilty of using the word in jest with friends or family and feel so dirty after. It is a word so socially acceptable that even people who are so passionate for the rights of the developmetally disabled can use it without thinking. My son was thank god born "typical" but I know that that could change at a moments notice and I would never want that kind of hurt for him!! BRAVO on your video!! If people are angry it's because they had to look at themselves and it was uncomfortable, as it should be! HATE of ANY kind is wrong!!!

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  41. That's well and all, but the term "retard" is still enjoyable regardless. I am gay & quite enjoy the word faggot; even to be called. It just rolls of the tongue, don't it? It just depends if there is hate backing up that word. If a word is said with no true emotion, it means nothing, they are only words.

    P.s That opening quote is hilarious and is my new status. Hearts! -Anon

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  42. My older sister has severe mental disabilities, to the extent that I've never heard her speak in my lifetime. I've hated the word 'retard' since I was very young.

    I'm still young. When my friends use it in conversation, I tell them it's not funny. They start arguing with me; they tell me the meaning has changed, that it's not used in a bad way, that I shouldn't be so annoying. Most of them don't know about my sister.

    Recently, though, it's started bothering me to the extent that I calmly asked them to not use the word, because it offends me. Again, I was met with calls of 'it's not the same thing.' The same general insults.

    I lost my nerve this afternoon. My friends are all intelligent, educated, and old enough to understand the derogatory term that word bears. I told a boy whom I've had feelings for for 4 years that my older sister had a disability.

    His response? "You don't have a sister."

    I then proceeded to explain that I DID, and she was 'retarded' to the extent that she can't feed herself, wash herself, do anything for herself, and that she's 23 years old, incapable of speech, and will never move out of home.

    I ended my rant with, "So, I'd appreciate it if you didn't say retard, because it offends me."

    His response made me wonder why I felt anything for him in the first place; I don't understand how people can be so close-minded.

    He said. "Fine. I won't say it. Around you."

    And then he started to laugh.

    I feel like crying. I thought these were changed times, but really, people are still wildly insensitive.

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  43. It's not acceptable to call me stupid or spoiled, because sensory overload hurts!

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Thanks for sharing!



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