March 7 was “Spread the Word to End the (R)-Word” Day, the R-word being “retard” or retarded”. I didn’t want to post a blog post that day because I did not think that I could add anymore to what was already being said. Then, the other night at work it hit me, I did having something to add or update.
About six months ago, I wrote about my experience on trying to eliminate the R-word from my work teammate’s vocabulary. They were not using the word to be hateful but rather as a substitute for the word “dumb” or “stupid”. I worked on eliminating the usage of the R-word by instituting a $1 fine for each time someone used the R-word. After about four weeks, thankfully the fines ended as did the use of the R-word. You could tell that my fellow team members had worked on eliminating the word from their vocabulary.
For that last five months, there has not been an r-word violation or a fine collected.
I work in a distribution center (warehouse). In a warehouse environment, sometimes that language is a little saltier then in other professions. Though not common place, you will hear the s-word and the f-word a couple times a night. Not said in anger, just part of a conversation or two.
We have recently had a group of new hires come on board and I was listening in on a training session that other day between a veteran team member and one of our new hires. The veteran team member was going over an error that the new team member kept doing. After being told of the error, the new team member said “Sh*t! I am so retarded I keep making that error.” The veteran team member quickly replied to the team member stating “Hey, we don’t use that word here.” The new team member said that he was sorry for saying the word sh*t. The veteran replied “No, not that word. The R-word. It is a very mean word and if you say it around Fitch, be prepared to be fined a $1 or two and see a picture of his daughter who has down syndrome. And knowing Fitch, he’ll probably tell you that each time you say that word you’re calling his daughter that.”
“Wow” said the new employee
“Trust me it works” the veteran said “I don’t mind losing a buck or two but thinking of his daughter when I said it really hit home.”
At that point, I smiled and continued on my way. I am not be able to eliminate the use of the R-word in the whole world but even small victories count along the way.