If you’re in the autism community and active in social media, surely you’ve heard the recent hoopla surrounding 50 Cent and the comment he made via his twitter feed the other day when responding to a follower:
“i just saw your picture fool you look autistic”
I myself read about the famous rapper’s lack of better judgement via a link on my Facebook stream to a blog post written by fellow autism parent Holly Robinson Peete in response to 50 Cent and though my initial reaction was anger at the stupidity of this ridiculous man, as I began to read Holly’s words I felt my anger and disgust with 50 Cent replaced by pride and adoration for Holly.
She managed to handle the situation – which was hurtful to many families living with autism as the word “autistic” should never be used in a demeaning and derogatory way – with such grace and tact.
Me? I would’ve told the joker to Suck It.
But not Holly. She took this opportunity to not only call 50 Cent out on his reckless use of his very large and diverse platform – spreading ignorance about a community of individuals who are amazing, talented, loving and worthy of respect and acceptance to nearly 8 million followers – but to educate him on relevant issues facing individuals with autism and their families:
Do you even know what autism is? And what exactly does “autistic” look like? Do you know how wildly prevalent autism is? 1 in 88 have it. That’s 1 in 54 boys. Families suffer a social stigma you will never know. It is a financial and emotional drain for millions, so our non-profit- HollyRod Foundation works hard to raise funds to help these families cope.
Like I said, I would have just told him to Suck It.
But my favorite portion of Holly’s post was the very end, when she appeals to 50 Cent by including a photo of her son Rodney and letting him know that not only does he have autism, he’s also a huge fan of the rap artist:
Finally, this is my son Rodney Peete. He has autism. So I guess this is what autistic looks like? He is in special ed. He loves rap music and is a HUGE fan of yours. He’s a tremendous kid. He has to deal with so much trying to fit in. This isn’t helping.
The response on Twitter has been overwhelming. Members of the autism community have banded together and are using the power of social media to educate 50 Cent and his followers by posting photos of their children on the spectrum along with the hashtag #thisiswhatautismlookslike. Peete’s own HollyRod Foundation retweeted my photo of Andrew today:
To me, the real story doesn’t lie with 50 Cent and his gross misuse of the term autistic- which he used and meant as an insult.
It lies in the way that Holly Robinson Peete chose to handle the situation. It’s so very obvious that we have a long way to go before certain members of our society come to view our children and adult children with autism as valuable and worthy members of the community at large. And if we are to be honest with ourselves, there’s just no way we’ll be able to influence everyone.
But there’s right way and a wrong way to approach our plight. We can command respect on behalf of our children, or we can demand it, the same way a bully demands you give him your lunch money. We can fight fire with even bigger flames or we can rise above those that are disrespectful about and/or ignorant towards special needs individuals and their loved ones and be the face of a campaign geared towards educating the population at large.
We can use our collective powers to engage in thought-provoking discussions to generate a new level of knowledge of and acceptance for our community or we can choose to waste our energies and resources on perpetuating a viscous cycle of name-calling and finger pointing.
The latter has proven to rarely work.
So kudos to you Holly. You managed to not only get your point across, but because of your swift and intelligent action aimed at advocacy and empowerment, I can say confidently that you spoke on my behalf as well.