USC Best Buddies, an organization that partners with disabled elementary school students in Los Angeles, is collaborating with USC’s co-ed cinema fraternity, Delta Kappa Alpha, in promoting the national campaign “Spread the Word to End the Word,” which seeks to rid everyday vocabulary of the “R-word.”
The campaign will attempt to publicize the message that the words “retard” and “retarded” are derogatory to people who are affected by disabilities. The groups will ask students to sign pledges to stop using the words.
Delta Kappa Alpha and Best Buddies believe the campaign will increase the level of respect given to people with special needs.
Though the cinema fraternity does not have a direct connection to those with disabilities, the members were inspired to join the campaign because actor John C. McGinley is a national spokesperson for “Spread the Word to End the Word.”
Amelia Swedeen, a sophomore majoring in cinema television production and the philanthropy chair for Delta Kappa Alpha, said the partnership with Best Buddies originated out of a separate but common interest in this event.
“Best Buddies was a group that I knew was already doing this event, so I thought it would be a lot more powerful to put them together and make it one big event,” she said.
Swedeen said students often do not understand how much one word can hurt another’s feelings.
“We want to promote respect and encourage people to not use certain words,” Swedeen said. “You hear this word in every day speech, especially with college students. They use it for anything they don’t like and they think is stupid or anything that is negative, but they don’t realize that the word cuts very deep.”
Ashley Elizabeth, a junior majoring in theatre, said she thinks getting students to sign a pledge will make a difference in their use of the word.
“If you spread enough awareness of the reality of the word, how degrading it is and untruthful, it will make people think twice before they say it out loud,” Elizabeth said.
Certain words that are targeted toward a specific race or orientation are not accepted by the public as everyday language, but Swedeen said the same attention is not given to the “R-word.”
“[Retard] is the one word that is completely acceptable in society and media,” Swedeen said. “So that’s what we want to stop. We want to let people know that they can say that if they want, they have the freedom, but they are going to get called out for it.”
Eryn Parker, a senior majoring in English and communication and president of Best Buddies, said she hopes this event will make students conscious of their word choices.
“The more you raise awareness with anything, the more people will think about it,” Parker said. “And then it will get rooted in their vocabulary.”
Andy Dulcan, a junior majoring in cinema-television production and member of Delta Kappa Alpha, said this campaign is especially important because it promotes awareness.
“Awareness is the most crucial step in change, a lot of people don’t know the harm that they are causing with words since it originates in middle school, where you’re saying it before you even know what it is that you are saying,” Dulcan said. “The only way to make that change is for people to understand the long-term effects.”
Kacie Amacher, a freshman majoring in biochemistry, said she is excited students are raising awareness about this subject.
“It’s important that people understand that their words, however unintentional, can have a negative effect on others and that they need to be more aware of what is coming out of their mouths,” Amacher said.