Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Unity in the Autism Community

The entire controversy over Curtis Jackson's remarks seems to have brought an interesting facet to my understanding of the autism community: When faced with a common enemy and a common goal, they were able to set aside the differences they had with each other and unite to accomplish their intended goal. This posed the question to me: How, then, can we retain this unity and move forward to have common goals accomplished?

Having talked to a close friend of mine, we pondered the situation together and came up with a rule of thumb for a common goal: The common goal should not benefit one facet of the community, but the community as a whole. Extended, an ideal goal, for universal support, should have a way of benefiting all of humanity.

Therefore, this means that anything there is a massive divide over, no matter how important advocates of each party believe it is, should be shelved in favor of the common goal that benefits all. Ideally, if said partisan goal is a means to a universal end, there should be deliberation given towards how to approach that end universally as far as can be done before partisan debates are needed.

Clearly, the universal goal everyone involved with autism seeks is for the children to lead a better life. However, not all sides agree on how the better life is to be achieved. The neurodiversity advocates argue for autism to be seen as a differing mindset to be accommodated to by the community, and the biomedical advocates argue for autism to be seen as a disorder to be treated. However, I think, with a slight amount of compromise, there can be a common goal to be found.

I believe that common goal is to see autism as something to not be afraid of or feel hatred towards. It is something to be looked at and handled on the individual level. Some will choose to alter themselves or their children with drugs and other means, some will choose to keep their autism close to their heart and live with both its benefits and its drawbacks.

The compromise, however, is that the neurodiversity advocates must take a step back and allow the biomeds to do what they feel is needed to help their kids live a better life, and the biomeds must speak out when rhetoric of autism is fearmongering and combative. We cannot be using “war on autism” or call it a “emergency” or “national crisis” when the rates go up. We cannot see these children as an enemy to be fought, or the part of them that is autistic as something that needs to go away. If we're to fight for a better future for these kids, let's do it together, not as enemies. The world is tough enough on them as it is without people claiming to speak on their behalf fighting each other.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Celebrity, Autism, Oppression by the Oppressed and Public Opinion

Edit 7/8/2012: Curtis has finally posted an apology.  The wording is a little strange; after all, didn't he mean to offend the person he was replying to? "I realize my autism comments were insensitive, however it was not my intention to offend anyone and for this I apologize." (found at https://twitter.com/50cent/status/222033753386647554

Edit 7/5/2012: Curtis has deleted the tweets, but has still made no public acknowledgement of saying them or an apology for them.  More edits as the situation changes.

On the second of July, the rapper, producer and businessman Curtis Jackson, known to many as "50 Cent", posted two posts to his Twitter account that enraged the Autism community:

"yeah i just saw your picture fool you look autistic ‪#SMSaudio‬ RT @yung_raditz @50cent Release the album or get shot again" ( Previously found at https://twitter.com/50cent/status/219978810689470464)


"i dont want no special ed kids on my time line follow some body else ‪#SMSaudio" ( Previously found at https://twitter.com/50cent/status/219980077855809537) .

He followed up with an "apology" for the Special Ed. remark that seemed more like a jab at how the program worked than an actual retraction of his opinion:

"just kidding about da special ed kids man, i was in special ed day said i had anger issues lol" (Previously found at https://twitter.com/50cent/status/219983198527045633 ) .

As many people have already talked about the event itself, I would rather springboard this to a discussion on how celebrity status seems to affect public opinion. Why is it that a good many people take the advice of a celebrity in fields they have no knowledge about? From the posts, it is clear Curtis knows nothing of autism; there is no autistic "look", after all, and the idea of "looking autistic" being an insult is absurd when any of the world's greatest innovators were on the spectrum. Yet people will fight his opinion, myself included, because we know there are people who will hold it as gospel if unchallenged.

This provides a catch-22: a few bloggers have said that there are better things to do than fight one man's opinion, and they are right. It is, after all, the opinion of just one man. The issue, however, is that if we do not fight it, those that hold his opinion sacred will spread it. If we do fight it, the fight will spread the discussion to people who would otherwise not have heard it, and thus we spread it ourselves. Either way, an opinion that quite rightly should just die out spreads. I choose to speak out, however, because at least speaking out shows that this view is not universally held and has opposition. And that, hopefully, will discourage other people from actively expressing such views. I would wish people did not respect celebrity views just by virtue of their celebrity, but until people take positions based on actual merits, others must fight back in order to show those views are wrong.

One of the greatest ironies, however, is that the person this insult is coming from, Curtis Jackson, is a member of a race and culture that in his very lifetime experienced and experiences systematized discrimination. He knows what it is like to be insulted for an attribute he is born with (the color of his skin), yet chooses to propagate discrimination for another born trait (autism). If he does not know autism is a born trait, it makes him ignorant. If he does, it makes him a hypocrite, especially after promoting a book against bullying. Either way, I hope the community continues to push for an apology and retraction until it gets one.  Nobody deserves to be insulted for how they were born, be it sexuality, race or neurotype.