23 July, 2013

J. Cole's "autism lyric"

This really just blends into the woodwork but since I happened to end up complaining about it in real life, here is a post about J. Cole’s apology for his verse in Drake’s “Jodeci Freestyle,” where he used “autistic, retarded” as an insult.

So, the apology isn’t great anyway, but the big thing I noticed is that he only talked about autism--he didn’t apologize to people with intellectual disabilities or their families, even though he used the word “retarded.”  I can’t really blame J. Cole for this because it seems like no one told him.  For example, the Anna Kennedy/Anti-Bullying Alliance petition against the lyric specifically asked him to apologize to people with autism and our families, and did not mention the other PWD who are hurt by the R-word.

Yes, J. Cole is stupid for not realizing that he should be apologizing to all people with developmental disabilities, but how stupid are organizations and activists that actually focus on disability for not asking him to do that?

There was a time when all developmental disability was assumed to be intellectual disability and people were confused by the word autism.  Now the opposite seems to have happened--for example, when people find out that I work for someone who is nonspeaking, they immediately assume she has autism, instead of realizing that there are many disabilities that could cause someone to be nonspeaking. In general, people will often describe anyone with a developmental disability as being “autistic”--even though intellectual disability is the most common developmental disability!

It’s hard for me to articulate why this makes me so angry, but I think part of it is that it illuminates how most people don’t learn basic information about disabilities.  Right now autism is being blown up as some kind of dramatic health crisis so it’s the only developmental disability the average person knows about and the catch-all term for all disabilities.  It’s not so nice for people with autism to be treated like the four horsemen of the apocalypse, but it’s also terrible that people with intellectual disabilities are so ignored by the average person that J. Cole doesn’t even realize he used their diagnosis as an insult, and neither do autism advocates. (I’d love to say just autism parents, but I’ve seen some Autistic people who didn’t notice either.)


  1. Autism isnt the only DD which exists. What do you mean autism is some sort of dramatic health crisis?

    I wasnt as offended by the actual word I was more offended he used the word rather casually. As for the non speaking part, I have a 1 year old daughter with CP. She is also non verbal.

    1. Thara, I think she's referring to the way scare groups like Autism Speaks--and often the mainstream media--like to call autism an "epidemic."

  2. Oh right. Why would they do that? Autistic people have enough to deal with already, they dont need the media lying about autism. Shame on the mainstream media.

    Amanda is correct there are many disabilities which prevent the person talking. CP is one of them.

  3. That's so weird. Maybe it's a side effect of all the Autism Awareness campaigns that have been going on ... people are hyper-aware of autism, but have forgotten that there are other developmental disabilities too?

    I also think there's some intelligence-fetishizing going on too ... autistic people might be OK because they might have normal intelligence hiding under their communication impairments, but people with intellectual disability are a lost cause. I see this within autism too, that some autistic people get written off because they also have intellectual disabilities. (They're not the only autistic people that happens to --- autistic people who also have physical disabilities also get a lot of people thinking their lives aren't worth living).

  4. Oh, and sometimes not-otherwise-disabled autistic people ourselves use "but I have normal/superior intelligence!" in a self-justifying way. Like what they mean is, "I'm a person, I deserve to be treated as one," but because of internalized ableism it comes out as, "But I'm not REALLY disabled, you've made a mistake!"

  5. I think you may be right; I saw a post on Tumblr today mocking a kid (I think? kinda too faceblind to be sure of his age) who has Down Syndrome... and the poster had tagged it 'autism', as if he thought they were synonymous. So much for 'awareness', I guess.