“Spread the word to end the word” was a phrase that had little to no meaning to me before I started coming to Emory. I had never known about or heard the phrase before and I certainly had no idea what it meant. Upon my arrival here, one of my teammates responded to my comment about something being “retarded” with that exact phrase. Initially I was quite confused as that was not a response I had ever gotten to this comment before. Shortly after an explanation that what she had said was part of a campaign to end the use of possibly hurtful words, I finally understood what this “spread the word to end to word” phrase exactly meant.
After this incident, I took the new phrase I had learned and looked further into this campaign. I read numerous anecdotes about bad experiences with these hurtful words as well as statistics about the use of the “r-word”, all of which I was extremely moved by. I was very surprised about the fact that this was a whole movement that I had never previously heard about, especially since it seems so established among many people. Until I became aware of the statistics of the use of the “r-word” I had not formerly noticed how often it was used. After just a day of listening to what people say and occasionally eavesdropping on a few conversations, I began to notice how many people said the word completely unknowingly, most likely not meaning any harm from the word. I also realized how much I unintentionally used the “r-word” myself and at that moment I decided to stop watching everybody around me and to make a change.
Through my research and personal experiences, I have recently become an advocate of the “Spread the word to end the word” campaign and have started using the iconic phrase around anyone that I hear use the “r-word” in the incorrect context. It was and still is difficult to change the way I normally talk by excluding the “r-word” from my vocabulary, but every time I catch myself and use another word in its place I can’t help but feel a sense of accomplishment and pride for myself taking a step in the right direction. While making a personal change may be difficult, I am glad that my eyes were opened to this phenomenon and that I have been trying to make the change in my life. Researching and learning from my peers through experience I believe has taught me how to be more sensitive to certain situations and I am thankful for that new skill.