An Open Letter To Celebrities On Twitter Who Continue To Use The R-word
This is a post in the weekly Autism Hopes series by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez, a mom who blogs over at AutismWonderland.
A few faces of who you hurt
Dear Celebrity on Twitter (and all the tweeps who follow you):
You have hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions of people following you. Whatever you tweet will most likely get replied to, retweeted and/or favorited over and over again. Your tweet will be hashtagged and shared on Facebook and Instagram. It will be shared with your followers, their followers and so on.
So when you use the r-word to insult someone or something – it goes way beyond your social media reach.
Some people will praise your “wit” and ability to speak your mind. While others will be disgusted, disappointed, outraged and bewildered.
Tweets, blog posts and Facebook status updates will condemn you for your cruelty, ignorance and lack of compassion for a community who have done nothing to offend you, the way you have offended them.
And this is what you want. It’s all free publicity (especially when you have a new book/show/record coming out).
You have an agenda. I get it.
But please understand – as a parent of a special needs kid, I have an agenda too. And it’s much more complex and critical than your need to be pop culture relevant.
It’s not about being oversensitive or playing word police or taking the Internet too seriously.
It’s about respect, equality, dignity. These are the basic qualities of life not necessarily granted to my child simply because he has special needs.
You are not the first person or celebrity to use the r-word. Sadly, you will probably not be the last. Because the r-word is a word so deeply embedded in our culture, used by people who do not understand why it is so hurtful.
You do not understand why the word is so hurtful.
My son is 6.5 years old. His name is Norrin and he has autism. And with your use of the r-word – you have hurt him. You have hurt millions of children and adults living with any kind of disability. In 140 characters or less, you have sabotaged and diminished every single thing a special needs parent advocates for. You are perpetuating this stereotype that individuals with special needs are stupid, ugly, worthless and less than.
You do not understand what it feels like to sit through months of testing, appointments and evaluations. You do not understand what it’s like to wonder or worry whether your child will ever walk, talk or have a friend.
You do not understand what it’s like having therapists in your home, teaching your child to do the things that come so easily to others.
You do not understand how one person can change your entire outlook on life.
If you tried to understand any of these things, the word would be eliminated from your vocabulary.
I am not the first person or mom to write about people who use the r-word. (Ellen has dedicated much of her writing to it and created a powerful video about her son Max – you can see it here.) And I will not be the last.
And I am not a celebrity. I’m not a person you’d follow on Twitter. And chances are my words will be out of your reach. But I hope to reach your followers. I hope they will read this and take the time to understand.
Not a follower or fan of yours
Image (from top to bottom/left to right): Ted, Norrin (AutismWonderland), Ashlyn (Four Plus an Angel), Henry (Try Defying Gravity), Abby (Mostly True Stuff), Moe (Anybody Want a Peanut), Angel (Sailing Autistic Sea), Helene (ProfMomEsq), Ian and Luke (The Domestic Goddess) and Peter (Everybody’s Boy)