Time to retire the R-word from state law

Ah, to return to the innocence of youth. Back to a time when we would say, with confidence, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”

Was that ever true? We’re not sure a time existed when words didn’t have the power to label, to degrade, to diminish … to hurt.

Upon reflection, maybe things weren’t quite so “innocent” back then. Words we wouldn’t think of using today were casually thrown about. Words that hurt, in some cases unintentionally, entire races, classes and types of people.

We’re getting wiser as a people. Slowly, we are limiting our use of some of the more hateful and unforgiving of those “bad” words.

This week in Lansing debate is going on in an effort to limit the use of another word deemed hurtful and inappropriate.

Legislation has been introduced to remove the word “retarded” from Michigan law.

An eight-bill package in the State House would amend various state statutes with updated references to those with developmental disabilities.

A separate package, consisting of seven bills, is in the Senate and would do the same.

Supporters of the effort say the “R-word” has become a hurtful term which stigmatizes not only mentally challenged persons, but their families as well.

Championing the cause is Lt. Governor Brian Calley. The issue is more than political for the Republican Calley whose daughter has autism.

The bi-partisan effort in the House is led by Rep. Matt Lori, R-Constantine, and Phil Cavanagh, D-Redford Township. Lori said the legislation is “reflective of our esteem to all citizens and of efforts to be completely inclusive.”

To be clear, this effort is not a bleeding-heart attempt to be “politically correct.” It is a national campaign that is gaining momentum. In Washington in 2010, Congress removed the word for various federal laws.

Today in Lansing many state lawmakers are taking a plunge for those with special needs … literally.

The Polar Plunge, an annual fundraiser for Special Olympics is taking place outside the Capitol.

Despite what we were told as youngsters, words can and do hurt. And unfortunately they often hurt those who are least capable of defending themselves.

We support this effort and encourage our state legislators to vote in support of the packages.

It won’t outlaw insensitivity and stupidity. But it is a step in the right direction.