An Open Letter To Those Who Continue To Use The ‘R Word’

by Kathy Radigan
A mother and a daughter in a black and white selfie
Courtesy of Kathy Radigan

OK. I give up. You win.

All these years of hearing people explain to you, often quite passionately and eloquently, that the R word is hurtful hasn’t changed your mind. It doesn’t matter if you’re describing a situation, yourself, or someone else. It hurts. But I doubt one more plea from a middle-aged suburban mom is going to move you.

Yes, you are correct when you say we live in a free society, and you have every right to say anything you want.

You most certainly have the legal right to use a word, even if it demeans people whose only sin is that they have to work a hundred times harder to do things you take for granted. Things like reading, speaking, or working.

Since you were born lucky enough to do those things with ease, you don’t have to worry about anybody making fun of you. So why should you care about someone else’s feelings?

Parents like me who cringe when someone gives our children a nasty look or throws the R word at them are just being hypersensitive.

Since your child doesn’t have an issue that would make someone else decide to use that word to describe them, it isn’t your problem.

Courtesy of Kathy Radigan

Life is complicated and divisive enough these days without people like me taking offense anytime you should happen to use the R word. After all, you’re just describing a frustrating situation, or another driver.

You’re just trying to live your own life. You don’t need me or anyone else telling you what to do.

And yes, the R word has been around a long time. It was once the medical term used to describe a person who is developmentally disabled. And yes, it’s in the dictionary.

Of course, so are the words, dungaree, galoshes and percolator. But what do I know? Maybe you still enjoy using them to describe jeans, rain boots and coffee makers.

Life would be so much nicer if people just went back to the way things use to be in the “good old days.”

Back then you didn’t have to worry about encountering an amazing person like my daughter, or her friends.

Teenagers and young adults who are happy and proud to go to a store and pay for something all by themselves. Or hold down a job stocking shelves.

You don’t have the time to smile and get to know someone new, or give a fellow human an extra minute or two if you should encounter them helping to bag your groceries or ring up your purchase.

You’re busy. You have important things to do.

I realize you could care less about what I think, but I’m profoundly sorry for you.

By marginalizing a group of people, you’re missing out on knowing some truly exceptional human beings who have gifts and abilities that are clearly beyond your comprehension.

Not to mention, you look very petty and mean spirited.

But, you’re right. This is America. So though I wish we could erase the word from our vocabulary since it’s outdated, inaccurate, and hurtful, people like you will never let that be.

Okay. We hear you.