‘Spread the Word to End the Word’ comes to USC

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.

2 replies
  1. ANJ
    ANJ says:

    In my opinion the campaign to “Spread the Word to End the Word” does not target “cruel people”. People who are cruel are purposeful in their actions and use of words. And, like you said Ras, those who take the pledge would not use this word. The campaign is meant to raise the awareness of people who use the R-word without really thinking about it’s meaning. Raising awareness about the R-word is about opening one’s eyes to the real world where people are ignorant and they don’t even know it. Did you know that President Obama signed Rosa’s law to ban the use of the R-word in legislative documents?

  2. Ras
    Ras says:

    After we scrub out this word, what is next? Should we ban “fat” since it can also cause discomfort and pain to obese people that are within earshot of its use? Only in LA can we feel so good about pursuing a symbolic solution to an imaginary problem.

    The problem is not the word, the problem is cruel, ignorant people who would use this word in a hurtful manner. The irony with this cause is that the people who are willing to make the pledge are the same ones that would not be this hurtful in the first place. Do we think the cruel people who would use this word in a hurtful manner just automatically disappear if we campaign to remove a word from our lexicon? This is like a child closing his eyes thinking anything scary in front of him will also disappear.

    We have to stop this retarded logic in this city where we think if we go from “South Central Los Angeles” to “South Los Angeles” we automatically fix the ghettos. These symbolic word games only produce the harmful charade that we are doing something about the problem when all we accomplish is touching the problem. How about curing cancer by eliminating the word…?

    Let’s all be adults and not build “word jails” for words that we think COULD be used in a harmful manner. BTW, would “Flame Retardant” be approved under this signed pledge or would all pledgees have to rework the Fire Codes…? If we are so distrustful of letting people speak their minds and let them be subject to the court of public opinion, then perhaps we are slowly advocating for a dumbed down society where the collective scrubs out and approves language for the individuals. We can slowly grind ourselves down where there are no provocative thoughts but just a safe, middle ground, common denominator of plain vanilla, politically correct thoughts.

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