My fifty cents on 50 cent and autism
His comments about autism and “special ed kids” drew criticism, most particularly from the mother of a son with autism who wrote the singer an open letter from her website detailing why using the condition as an epithet for foolish or stupid is as cruel as it is stereotyping and wrong.
Given the fact that I was in similar circumstances in October of last year I was contacted by many people who drew my attention to the situation.
I was unaware of it as I don’t number one of the singers 6 million + followers – but my feelings on the subject are best described as mixed.
As a disability rights campaigner on the issues of hate crime I was saddened to see the hipster fashion for disability as justifiable insult still being adopted by famous people.
However as 50 cent has deleted his comments from Twitter and posted supportive tweets on the condition subsequently on his timeline.
I think it’s a shame that his crime of ignorance is still being used to define him.
Many activists and parents are still enraged by another aspect of the debacle. It comes down to the apology question.
Whenever I ask famous people to stop using stigmatising language I don’t focus on the apology. Regret when forced is as meaningless as it is pointless.
It brings to mind children facing one another and through gritted teeth saying things they clearly resent and don’t mean, in order to satisfy a resolution in the eyes of an adult. The words I’m sorry can be said politically by anyone but the real truth in the reparation of harm lies not in what we say but instead in what we do or choose not to do.
In campaigning I seek to change attitudes to change behaviours and to enable those who don’t know to learn more. All stigmatising language has at it’s heart a basic instinct wrought through lack of experience or negative experience not truth.
It is framed through the propagation of bigoted stereotypes, myths made truism through repetition and encounters with more ignorance.
These approaches can be and have been used very effectively as the first step on the road to genocide and it is through frequent and deliberate use of stigmatising language that dehumanising attitudes are born. They are necessary in terms of mobilising nation against nation in times of war and sadly common in pitting human against human in times of austerity. If you’re looking to group people together nothing works so well as a common enemy or scapegoat.
In this perfectionism based, botox filled, silicone enhanced, celebrity obsessed culture of ours those who are different have become the go to guys for abuse. It’s unlikely we’ll see a Downs syndrome or wheelchair using Barbie any time soon (although with the proportions becoming ever more gravity defying it may soon be necessary) so the norms of our young are still being framed around the ideal as defined by non disabled people.
My point in raising this is that the further we push people to society’s fringes out of the light and into the shadows, the easier it is to disenfranchise them. Disabled people are expensive and irritatingly for budget holders disabled children can become disabled adults. Not always of course. The saddest fact of my daughters transfer from mainstream school to specialist school was the roll call of “In Rememberance” names printed in the newsletter.
So 50 cent felt the wrath of the parents who love their children in a way parents of non disabled children will never fully understand.
They know the children they love and advocate for will know discrimination as real and as wounding as any other abuse but for some disabled people, particularly it has to be said learning disabled people this abuse is routine.
With lives led at the behest of others, to the agenda and determination of others, learning disability provides a vulnerability that the truly cruel can exploit, sickeningly, with comparative ease.
That’s the background which fuels the rage but once a public figure who controls their fans’ behaviour with a precision which would have Pavlov himself drooling with admiration, has recognised and changed, we too need to move on.
There is nothing to be gained from adopting the “but he said” approach long after the words are silenced.
Ignorance really is a defence at times and for all the warrior parents out there battling ignorance and service providers and educators and the man, woman and abusive child on the street forgiveness can be the better part of valour.Tagged in: autism
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