OUR VIEW: Michigan joins national movement to end the ‘r-word’

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

Most everyone has heard this nursery rhyme, but we don’t agree with it. Words can be hurtful; sometimes name calling can cause more damage than a physical assault and the wounds can take longer to heal.

That’s why we’re glad Michigan will join other states on Friday in a national movement to fight discrimination against people with disabilities.

Retard(ed) will be removed from state laws when Lt. Gov. Brian Calley signs the “R-word” package of bills in Lansing.

The “R-Word” is used 15 times in a variety of Michigan laws dealing with everything from mental health institutions to educational facilities and criminal activity. It will now be replaced with the term “developmental disability.”

There are only a handful of states left that have yet to take similar measures. The terms “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” were removed from federal health, education and labor policy in 2010.

“This is a historic day for Michigan,” said Special Olympics Michigan president and CEO Lois Arnold. “We would like to thank Lt. Gov. Brian Calley for his leadership in helping to make today possible. With the signing of these bills, those with developmental disabilities now have a new ‘R-Word’: respect.”

Activists say the word has negative connotations that do not fit the contemporary culture; we couldn’t agree more.

As journalists, we are very choosy with our words — the wrong ones could get us into a world of legal trouble!

We’re happy that people are becoming more aware that it’s not just semantics, words do matter. We encourage everyone to think before you speak.

“It’s better to be silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” (Proverbs, 17:28)

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