Talkin’ ‘Bout Words

Julia Wunning-Zimmer, copy editor

“You’re being so retarded,” I hear a girl mindlessly criticize her friend. I hear a boy in my Honors Biology class remark, “You look like a hobo.” Infuriated with her latest assignment, I hear a sophomore carelessly say, “Mr. Smith is so gay for giving us this work.” On a daily basis, I hear kids of all races shout the n-word, even though it’s been known as a derogative name since the 1800s, according to the African-American Registry.

Courtesy of YouTube

31 percent of KHS students said they use at least one of the following words derogatively: faggot, gay, the n-word and/or retarded. Derogatory terms have become astonishingly casual to use in conversation at KHS, as they echo throughout the halls on a daily basis.

My moms have worked with people with disabilities since I was born, so words aimed to harm other people as a result of their disability or sexual orientation have always offended me. These poisonous words blind me with hatred. I cannot, then, imagine the damage derogatory terms inflict upon people directly harmed by them. People who use these slurs probably don’t realize that people lie behind the words they use, since words can psychologically harm people, according to Timothy Jay, professor at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

Everyone gets offended nowadays, political correctness makes for awkward conversation. Everyone says retarded, so it’s okay, right? I get it, it takes effort to ensure the protection of all people’s feelings. It’s not cool to speak using respectful language. But it is inexplicably more important to preserve the feelings of all people than to be lazy or to keep up an image. People who are directly offended by these words are already subjugated enough by a racist policing system in America, a lack of protection from the government in a working environment and an entirely separate section of the school dedicated to only students with disabilities.

31 percent of KHS students said they use at least one of the following words derogatively: faggot, gay, the n-word and/or retarded. Derogatory terms have become astonishingly casual to use in conversation at KHS, as they echo throughout the halls on a daily basis.”

Instead of word vomiting derogatory slang, students can use respectful language. People First Language is an example of how to politely refer to other human beings. According to the National Inclusion Project, People First Language is preferred terminology mainly used for people with disabilities. Instead of saying ‘the disabled boy,’ People First Language calls for people to say ‘the boy with a disability.’ Although it takes an effort to change the order of words, using this type of language cuts down on the dehumanization of people based on inherent characteristics, like race, sexual orientation and abilities.

Ultimately, the only effective actions KHS students can take to directly combat offensive language is to completely eliminate the n-word, “retarded” and “faggot” from our vocabulary, stop using the word gay in a negative connotation and encourage other people around them to follow suit.

All it takes is to say “that’s so stupid,” instead. It’s not a complex term, nor does it change the meaning from the original derogatory phrase. But it sure won’t offend anyone because of their race, sexuality or disability.