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Social Slurs Have No Place in School


Social slurs do not belong in a classroom. When it comes to using a word that classifies a group of people as a negative adjective, it goes beyond hurting people’s feelings or going against political correctness. It continues to objectify and demean these people, and strengthen the bounds of stereotype.

While sitting in class a few weeks ago, a professor of mine used a word that should not ever be said, and especially not in higher education. My professor used the word “retarded” as an adjective, and although they did not say it in reference to a student, the word was still used within the classroom. They used it as a way to describe their dog, but regardless of whom the word is directed towards, it’s blatantly offensive.

When they said that word, the class just went silent with disbelief. Did they really just say that? We were all put in an awkward position because we didn’t know if we should call our professor out on their language or not. They are still our teacher but have clearly not received the memo that the “r-word” is not used as an adjective anymore.

After they realized what they said, an apology didn’t really happen. It was more of a casual acceptance, by saying “Oh, I guess that’s bad.” Yes, using that type of language in a professional setting is not just bad—it’s unacceptable.

It is one thing for a professor to drop an f-bomb or use profanities, because there’s no attached and loaded language. Social slurs, such as “retarded” or “gay,” have no place in the classroom. It’s 2016, our culture has moved on from using social slurs as synonyms for different types of behaviors.

There have been many movements in the past several years to raise awareness so people can understand that their words have an impact. The “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign kicked off to spread awareness to stop the use of the “r-word.” It’s repressive to the special needs community and is a micro-aggression anytime it is used.

The age-old excuse of “I said it but I didn’t mean it,” doesn’t work anymore. Every time someone uses a social slur it sets back the progress of inclusion within our society. Social slurs are exclusive words that are limiting to groups of people.

Saying the “r-word” instantly puts people who suffer from a disability into lower caste than those who are able-bodied. It is still a form of oppression. It may not seem like it, and this may seem like an overreaction, but words matter. We need to hold people accountable for the words that are being said. Social slurs are just as bad as racial slurs and sexist slurs.

Derogatory words have no place in the classroom setting or within our communities. Saying social slurs as a professor discredits all the work they are trying to do, as they are in the position to positively shape and mold growing minds. Since they used that word it has been difficult to take that class seriously anymore.

—Morgan Mackey

illustration: Madalyn Drewno • CU Denver Sentry

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