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The R word: R for Remarkable

Courtesy of ClemsonLIFE

ClemsonLIFE student Zach Buchanan (left) met baseball legend Dale

Murphy (right).

In the dictionary, the word “retarded” is defined as a description of slowness or the limitation in intellectual understanding and awareness, emotional development and academic progress. More commonly it’s used as a synonym for stupid. 

This article is meant for the few who keep this word in their inadequate vocabulary.

The R-word hurts because it is unpleasant and insulting – it reflects upon individuals who are nothing short of incredible in a fashion that degrades and alienates.   No one deserves that. 

Without the word “retarded,” the world can cultivate a more accepting attitude toward all people. Language affects attitudes, and attitudes are directly associated with actions. The world needs to eliminate the derogatory use of the r-word from everyday conversations and promote the acceptance of people with intellectual disabilities, as Clemson has tried to do.

The ClemsonLIFE program not only works with those who have intellectual disabilities, but it demonstrates to the entire community that these wonderful students are not “retarded,” but rather a different R-word: remarkable. Clemson has been forever impacted by their presence. 

Uplifting spirits and embodying everything this great university stands for, these students change our lives whether we realize it or not.  One such example is Annsley James, a Clemson Life student, being surprised by Sigma Kappa with a bid to join their sorority. This was a revolutionary moment in the history of Greek Life and it works to further eliminate the barriers between us.  These are people. Are students. They think differently, they face challenges, and they are a crucial and inspiring part of our community.

Each and every one of these students is remarkable. I enjoy every moment I spend with them. From teaching them how to cook and secretly taking out the egg shells when they crack them for pancakes, or talking with them about their day and their extracurricular activities. There is never a moment when I don’t feel blessed that Clemson has supported and included these wonderful people. 

Our campus would not be as colorful without them and I wouldn’t want to be part of Clemson if they were not here. Baseball games would not be the same without seeing Zach dabbing in the dugout, and Cooper Library would not be the same without Andrew excitedly saying “hello” in the quiet zone. They not only impact me in my interactions with them, but they impact everyone. 

However, some of us still casually use the R-word. I cringe when every time I hear the word because of the negative connotation associated with it.

At first glance, people with special needs may seem ordinary, but in actuality they are extraordinary. There is one Clemson Life student named Raghav, and he is more intelligent than I could ever be. If you need the area code for Atlantic City (609) or Orangeburg (803), he knows without any hesitation. Can you do that? To be honest, I have to Google it. So why are so many people in the world so quick to call them “retarded” or say the word casually in a conversation?

There are so many words one could use to describe their feelings towards something being silly, dumb or annoying. But instead of making use of these other synonyms, they use the one word that packs a punch and hurts many. Buy a dictionary, because “retarded” shouldn’t be the only word in your glossary.

The next time you find yourself saying “retarded”, think again and consider the wonderful students we are lucky enough to go to college with. If you need to use an R-word or broaden your wordlist, consider the following: radiant, resilient and, most importantly, remarkable. 

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