By Chelsea LoCascio
According to the Best Buddies program at the College, derogatory words like “retarded” can really hurt.In fact, the sting of the word, regardless of its context, could be felt by the entire audience on Thursday, March 6, in the Library Auditorium as Best Buddies members, College students and various others recounted their emotions and memories in The R-Word Monologues as part of the club’s “Spread the Word to End the Word” week.
“It made it all real to me,” sophomore elementary education and psychology dual major Laura Stiefbold said. “I knew it was bad but this was real evidence.”
The event began on a serious note, as videos showed several people who have been affected by the r-word because of a disabled relative or friend.
The videos immediately brought to life Best Buddies’s “spread the word to end the word” motto.
The tone of the monologues swayed between serious and upbeat as those recounting their pain could still look to the future with optimism.
People everywhere are advised to avoid offensive language and become an “UPstander” by positively confronting those who use the r-word, according to Kidsbridge Tolerance Museum executive director Lynne Azarchi.
Azarchi said that 10 percent of people are victims to the use of the r-word in a derogatory manner, and as many as 69 percent are merely bystanders to the act.
“Bullies just want power over you,” Azarchi said.
She then asked the audience to “pair share” and put themselves in a situation in which they must confront an r-word user.
She told people to tell the user that you heard them say the r-word and then remain silent until the perpetrator realizes the effects of their offensive language.
No one truly understands the impact of the r-word until they have witnessed the passionate monologue that was given by College career and community studies (CCS) graduate Lauren Hyer.
Hyer screamed her feelings of disgust for the offensive word into the microphone for all to hear and the audience definitely got the message.
“I got chills multiple times,” said Diane Iannacone, a junior special education and history dual major and activities coordinator for Best Buddies. “When you hear people’s stories, you put yourself in their shoes.”
Junior special education major and CCS house mentor John Nally said having a platform to speak out about issues like using the r-word is very important.
“They have a voice and to have a platform like this was needed,” he said. “(It) was needed 34 years ago during institutionalization.”
Matt Iannaccone, a junior CCS student, said if he was the governor of New Jersey, he would fine anyone who used the r-word.
“It’s insulting just to say it … it makes them ignorant,” Iannaccone said. “I persuade other people to use words like unique, special or even magical.”