The last three years, I've weighed in, offered my thoughts. The last three years, I've asked my students to think about it, too. I did so today, as well.
It's time to look close, deeply at ourselves, our prejudices, and acknowledge that we all have them, that there's a group of folks we disparage. We need to question why. We need to challenge ourselves on our language, and acknowledge our slips and that we all have a ways to go towards accepting others who are different, with different challenges. We need to experience that dissonance, hold ourselves up to examination, and accept that we've got some dark sides that we need to bring out to the light.
I'm not sure there's a solution here; people do some spectacularly stupid things, even the smartest people. There ought to be a way to convey those failures of cognition without a derisive attitude that somehow still conveys the humanity, the value, and the validation of that humanity and value. I fear it's so much easier and so much more satisfying to just slip into the use of those words that convey that attitude than it is to painstakingly break down the claims being made, bit by singular, spectacular failing bit.
The problem is we're human, hypocrisy is inevitable, and lapses in theory of mind and the golden rule are going to happen.
I'm all for ending the use of the "R" word, but it's the attitude behind the word that has to be changed, and whether we use that particular word or not, I'm willing to bet that underlying attitude is one we all employ at one point or another.
Words HURT. We have to work harder to remember that, and to remember that we are all human and frail, fallible creatures who make mistakes but get up the next day determining to do better.
Let us not only resolve to do better, but actually do better.
I am not certain we are any closer to changing the use of the word nor the underlying attitudes behind that usage. I look around at the nastiness on the internet, at how trolls can be rewarded with hundreds of thousands of followers for their nastiness, and I wonder if we can even put a dent in it, this nastiness that festers.
I have to believe, though, that while we cannot eliminate entirely the nastiness that intentionally mean people put out there, that we can change how we use language, that we can create a more accepting society, and that we can become sensitive to how pejorative language demeans us all.
McGinley says that it is time to respect individuals with intellectual disabilities, time to end the R-word.
It's past time to respect those who are different, to accept them as equally valuable human beings.