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The “R-Word” and Ann Coulter – Raising Consciousness?

Badge of "R-Word: Spread the Word to End the Word" campaign  Courtesy: www.r-word.org
Badge of "R-Word: Spread the Word to End the Word" campaign Courtesy: www.r-word.org
November 12, 2012

HARTFORD, Conn. - When conservative commentator Ann Coulter used the word "retard" to describe President Obama in the final days of the campaign, it sparked an angry response from people who consider that "hate speech." Ironically, Coulter may have done them a favor by helping spread word of a movement against that word.

The ARC of Massachusetts, a Boston-based nonprofit organization serving those with disabilities, says the words "moron" and "imbecile" were once clinical terms, as was "retarded." Now, says Mandy Nichols, the "R-word" is inappropriate and hurtful to people with intellectual disabilities. And she doesn't like Coulter's explanation that she wasn't aiming the word at someone with disabilities.

"I wish that she would have responded that it's something that she learned from and wouldn't use the word, but she didn't. But, yeah, we have no tolerance for people using the word at all."

At best, says Nichols, the uproar over Coulter's language has brought attention to the issue - a problem that she and others are fighting with a national campaign called "R-Word: Spread the Word to End the Word."

Adam Hill, a board member of ARC of Massachusetts who has a developmental disability, says he's never been called a "retard" but if he was - or if he heard anyone use it about anyone else - he'd have this response:

"If someone ever said anything like that, I would say, 'Use your choice of words - think of your choice of words better.'"

In the wake of the criticism of her comment, Coulter complained about what she called "the language police," to which Mandy Nichols responds:

"It's not about being politically correct, it's about ending hate. And we ask others to expand their vocabulary and find another word out there that doesn't offend someone in a minority group. Same as with the 'N-word.' We don't use that word anymore."

She says the use of hate speech sets the stage for more severe outcomes like harm or abuse, noting that people with developmental disabilities are four to 10 times more likely to be victims of crime.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - CT