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Spread the Word to End the Word

Scott Finney (L) and Frank Meeuwis of The Arc Tennessee
Scott Finney (L) and Frank Meeuwis of The Arc Tennessee
November 5, 2012

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Scott Finney, a spokesman for The Arc Tennessee, calls it "hate speech" - a word with the power to insult, offend and belittle. The word is "retard," often referred to as the "r" word. The term was used last week on CNN's Piers Morgan Tonight by conservative political commentator Ann Coulter to describe the President of the United States.

Finney says that although the talk of politics is filled with charged emotions and clashing opinions, describing someone using hate speech is never appropriate.

"Labeling people with disabilities is not a good thing to do. The r-word really discriminates against people with disabilities."

Finney and the Tennessee Disability Coalition condemn the use of this term, especially by a figure on a national platform. He says individuals with intellectual disabilities are active members of the community who will be voting in Tuesday's election.

Gov. Bill Haslam introduced a bill in 2011 that replaced the term "retardation" with "intellectual disability" in the Tennessee State Code.

Coulter says she used the word the same way people use idiot, cretin or moron. Finney said the use of the word was offensive and racially charged.

"I believe that the "r-word" is the symbolic word of racial discrimination against people with disabilities."

The national "R-Word: Spread the Word to End the Word" campaign is working to eliminate the demeaning use of the word in everyday speech. The Arc is a Nashville-based nonprofit serving those with intellectual disabilities.


Bo Bradshaw, Public News Service - TN