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The 'R' word

Bill Ritter's daily take on the news.
March 6, 2013 1:50:32 PM PST
Spread the word to end the word.

That what disabled rights activists are calling this day. They want to do away with the "R" word.

They say it is to them what the "N" word is to African Americans - a word filled with vitriol and degradation.

And it the anti-R-word movement shows just how much our culture shifts when it comes to words and their meaning.

When my brother Alex was born in 1957, he was mentally and physically retarded. That what we called disabled people back then. Not in a derogatory way. That's what they were called, by people who loved them and took care of them.

In fact, soon after Alex died - he lived only a couple of weeks - my parents got involved with several groups that benefited disabled kids, including the National Association of Parents and Friends of Mentally Retarded Children.

It was a good cause. The group years later changed its name - in part because using "retarded" - while it was never considered pejorative by the group's leaders - was no longer considered socially acceptable. Times change. Words change.

And now the National Association calls itself "ARC."

When I was a kid, with my brother Alex's memory always fresh, I was acutely aware when my schoolmates would use words like "retarded" or "spaz." Hey, I'd say, my brother was retarded, or my brother was spastic, and I don't think that's very nice to call someone that. I got it, even in elementary school.

Now, families of disabled kids - and disabled kids themselves - get it. Which is why they spreading the word to end the word.

The truth is, I don't hear the R-word very often. Usually it's when someone on TV or radio says it and then gets a day-full of political grief. As it should be.

With that as my backstory - it's on to the 11 p.m. newscast. And we begin with the weather, and another winter storm is trying to hit us, but it's been delayed. A slow moving storm - keeping away from us, but not all of us.

Two big worries: Strong winds that could lead to power outages, and storm surges that could lead to flooding.

Meteorologist Lee Goldberg is tracking the system. He'll lead our coverage, at 11.

We're also following any developments in the search for Julio Acevedo, the ex-con wanted for crashing into a car and killing a husband and wife (and, the next day, killing their baby that was born after the accident), and then running away from the scene. So far we've talked to Acevedo on the phone - he said he was scared to turn himself in - and to his wife on camera. Why haven't cops caught him?

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Laura Behnke, in for Rob Powers, with the night's sports. I hope you can join Sade Baderinwa and me, tonight at 11.

BILL RITTER

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