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National campaign seeks to end use of R-word

By Megan Ferrando
On March 18, 2014

  • Guard Jeffrey Ricard (left) goes up for a lay-up as Devonte Upson (right) focuses on catching a rebound. The Lions lost their position in the tournament with a final score of 64-71. Christopher Martin

Many campaigns exist to fight for the rights of marginalized groups of people.  Sometimes making these campaigns succeed takes a lot of work within the government and other times these efforts can become as simple as excluding one word from a society's vocabulary.  
Stopping one hurtful word has proven to be more difficult than previously thought as many around the country joined the "Spread the Word to End the Word" campaign, which promoted the end to using the "R-word," retarded.
"When I hear the word 'retard', I think of my best friend, Daisy. Daisy is a human just like you and me, but too many people use the R-word to degrade her because she has an intellectual disability," said Marci Gaines, college buddy director of Best Buddies. "Although the R-word may be empty to you, it packs a whole lot of hurt and pain to me and many other people who have been blessed with special people in their lives."
Gaines explained how the word "retarded" was used to label someone "stupid, dumb or if they were born with an intellectual disability" and is often used as a "form of hate speech."
Best Buddies met to help spread awareness of how the R-word can affect some individuals in hurtful ways.
"Spread the Word to End the Word" spreads the idea that the R-word hurts because of its derogatory nature.  Stopping the use of this one word is a step closer to being more accepting of those with disabilities.
"I implore you to think critically about the implications of your word choices," said Gaines. "The R-word is so much more than just a word, it is a merchant of derision, scorn and above all exclusion. Instead, we should celebrate abilities, promote respect and champion inclusion."
Gaines told how once Daisy explained to her that before she was a part of Best Buddies she did not have the courage to stand up for herself.  Gaines quotes Daisy saying, "The word "retard' is hurtful and makes me feel [like] less of a person."
Southeastern's Best Buddies has been working with Special Olympics Louisiana for years to "Spread the Word to End the Word."  The University of South Florida joined forces this year to assist.  On March 11, students hosted an awareness table in the Student Activity Center.
Best Buddies consist of groups of students who join in friendships and more with those who have intellectual or developmental disabilities.  
To learn more about the groups mission and how to get involved, email  For more information on "Spread the Word to End the Word," visit

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