We live in a culture where we claim to tolerate differences but very often we do not. Too often jokes are made at the expense of people who are different and the chorus of laughter can be heard echoing off the walls of intolerance. When we make fun of someone who is gay or has a disability; who is overweight or mentally ill; who is from another country or dresses differently, we are perpetuating a culture that encourages hate and intolerance.
We are making it acceptable for a celebrity like Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson to tweet a joke about someone “looking autistic.” We are making it acceptable for 50 Cent to give autism a negative connotation. We are making it acceptable for 50 Cent to say he does not want special ed children on his twitter time line. (Check out his tweets, which were included in Holly Robinson Peete’s scathing letter to the hip hop artist.) As Holly’s letter went viral the twitterverse went ablaze. Everyone including myself became enraged. Some parents tweeted pictures of their children to 50 Cent. They wanted to show him what the faces of autism look like.
We are still waiting on an apology. In addition to giving an apology, 50 Cent needs to learn more about autism and the families affected by it. Lack of exposure can also breed ignorance. 50 Cent needs to come face to face with autism to begin to understand that people with autism and their families have feelings, too. We are not a punchline. The truth is if you put a picture of my son next to 50 Cent’s son, you will not be able to tell which one of them is on the autism spectrum.
I think that a boycott of all of the products that 50 Cent endorses and sells until he apologizes will send the message home. I am talking about his Vitamin Water. Contact Glaceau. I am talking about his Power Cologne. Contact Lighthouse Beauty Marketing. I am talking about his Street King Energy Drinks. Contact Pure Growth Partners. Boycott his music and G-Unit. Take a stand and give a voice to our children.
Do not think that 50 Cent is alone in this. A few months ago, Ice Cube ignited a similar firestorm when he use the word autistic as an insult in the movie 21 Jumpstreet. People laughed. It was funny to them. Disability is not something to make fun of. Then, we wonder why children are being bullied every day by their peers.
You may ask: What can I do? Everyone makes fun of other people. My response to that is when someone makes a joke about someone else for being different, take a stand. Tell them it is not funny. Put them on the spot. Don’t laugh as if it is ok. It is not. When someone calls another person retarded educate them. When someone makes fun about riding the little yellow school bus, put them in their place.
If anyone thought that parents like me are being too sensitive, remember that words can hurt. Words have led children to take their own lives. Do not wait for the joke to be made about someone you love before you take a stand.
What are you going to do or are doing to promote tolerance? I look forward to hearing from you.
Update (July 8th): According to a post on The Hollywood Reporter, 50 Cent has apologized for his offensive tweets. Now that 50 Cent has apologized, may the healing begin. I can think of many more things that he can do to learn more about our community but at some point we have to accept his apology and move on with our lives. I hope everyone has learned from this and that this makes people more mindful and aware that words can hurt. See post here.
Update (July 5th): According to a post on babble.com, 50 Cent took down the offensive tweets. He has not given an actual apology or made a general statement to all the parents and families he offended. Is this enough? I would still like him to learn more about autism and engage the community, so this does not happen again. See post here.