BY KATIE AUCHENBACH, PHOTOGRAPHY EDITOR
One of the most pervasive lies in our society is a catchphrase commonly learned in childhood: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
This idiom has deluded us into believing that the harsh words of others have no affect on our personal happiness.
However, it has been proven that language is a tool with the ability to hurt, scar and maim. The act of bullying can take many forms, and language, when used incorrectly, is a prime example.
One of my biggest pet peeves is when people use the word “retarded” to describe something in a derogatory way, such as to suggest that something is foolish or annoying.
When we use “retarded” in a belittling manner, whether that is our intention or not, we become a bully.
The American Medical Association estimates that more than 3.2 million youth are victims of moderate or serious bullying each year.
Clearly, our language has the ability to hurt others.
Yet, I also believe it has the ability to help.
By making a conscious effort to be aware of the words we use in our everyday conversations, we can combat the ignorance that leads to verbal bullying.
Let me be clear: I am not physically or mentally handicapped. I am simply an ally to those who suffer from the careless language of ableism.
As an ally, I have made a conscious effort to rid my speech of ignorant remarks.
Will you aim do the same?
Not only can making this decision positively impact the lives of those with physical or mental disabilities, but it can also affect the lives of your friends and family, who will notice the sincerity of your efforts.
A few years ago, I noticed my younger brother start using the word “retarded” to describe things that he thought were absurd. Consequently, every time he made a remark using the word, I would quickly reply with the phrase “word choice” and then let him continue speaking. Pretty soon, he stopped using the word entirely in his conversations.
You don’t have to be afraid to voice your opinion to the people around you when they use the word “retarded” incorrectly. It doesn’t have to be a big deal. Just ask them to use a different word next time and move on with the conversation.
It’s a simple act that can impact the lives of many people.
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