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Beyoncé will change a lyric in her latest album after accusations of ableism

Beyoncé performs during the Oscars on March 27 in Los Angeles.
Mason Poole
/
A.M.P.A.S. via Getty Images
Beyoncé performs during the Oscars on March 27 in Los Angeles.

Beyoncé will change a lyric in one of the songs on Renaissance in order to remove an offensive and ableist term.

On the album's 11th track, "Heated," which features Beyoncé and Drake among its writers, is the word "spaz," a term that disability activists have called an ableist slur.

Beyoncé's publicist told NPR over email that the lyric will be changed.

"The word, not used intentionally in a harmful way, will be replaced," the publicist said.

This is not the first time an artist has been criticized for using the term.

In June, Lizzo changed a lyric in one of her songs after receiving the same criticism. She posted a statement on social media explaining her reasoning for changing the lyrics and apologized to the communities she offended.

Disability advocate Hannah Diviney, who also called out Lizzo for using the word, wrote an opinion piece for The Guardian expressing her disappointment in Beyoncé for using the lyric.

"I thought we'd changed the music industry and started a global conversation about why ableist language – intentional or not – has no place in music," Diviney wrote.

While saying it's important that people are held accountable for their actions, some people have noted the higher standard that Black women face compared with other artists. Black disability activist Vilissa Thompson previously told NPR how white artists who use ableist language do not receive the same visceral reaction as Black artists.

"Grace and room for correction are typically not given [to Black people]. The double standard of inconsistent reactions is profound. They don't trust Black people to do the right thing," Thompson said.

The word "spaz" comes from the term "spastic," which is used to refer to people with spastic paralysis or cerebral palsy. The word has evolved into a derogatory term for people with disabilities and has been used to describe "weird" or "uncool" behavior usually related to physical movement.

Thompson said that the meaning and context of words change over time and that it's important to unlearn a term that is offensive.

"The onus is on us to not just unlearn but also update and improve the way that we communicate with each other, so that our words are intentionally used, so that they don't cause unintentional harm," Thompson said.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Amina Kilpatrick
Amina Kilpatrick is an assistant engagement editor for the Newshub team distributing stories to Facebook, Twitter, third-party platforms and more.