Recently rappers, Drake and J.Cole, upset the autism community with their latest single, Jodeci (Freestyle). The controversial lyric (“I’m artistic, you ni**as is autistic, retarded”) prompted Anna Kennedy and the Anti-Bullying Alliance to start an online petition asking Drake and J.Cole to apologize and change the lyrics. The petition received more than 4,500 signatures.
Actress and autism advocate, Holly Robinson Peete, addressed Drake and J. Cole’s lyrics on Access Hollywood. She talked candidly about her 15-year-old autistic son, struggling to fit in and the power of an artists lyrics—how damaging it is for our community and especially our children.
Yesterday, J.Cole issued an online apology:
Recently there’s been a trend that includes rappers saying something offensive, only to be attacked for it in the media and pressured to apologize. I do not believe that an apology is needed every time someone is offended, especially when that apology is really only for the sake of saving an endorsement or cleaning up bad press… This is not the case today. This apology IS necessary.
When I read it, I was moved by J. Cole’s sincerity. It was a true and thoughtful apology. Quite honestly, it was so much more than I expected. As a parent to an autistic child, J.Cole’s words were appreciated and his apology accepted.
And following J.Cole’s apology – Drake followed suit, admitting his responsibility. “Individuals with autism have brilliant and creative minds, and their gifts should not be disparaged or discounted. This was a learning lesson for both of us, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to try to right this wrong.”
The rappers have agreed to remove the lyric from their song.
But where do we go from here? J.Cole is not the first celebrity to toss out “autistic” or the “r-word” as an insult. And sadly, he will probably not be the last. I believe J.Cole’s and Drake’s apology but I would love to see something more done. Because actions, not words, make the real difference. So J.Cole, Drake—if you are reading this, I have three suggestions for you.
Visit a school. In your apology, you wrote you heard from parents of autistic children and were “inspired by [our] passion.” But if you really want to be inspired, meet our children. Spend a few hours with them, see how hard they work and how loving they are. Autistic kids are amazing. Many of our kids love music and learn through rhyme and repetition—write a song for them. Empower them with your words.
Participate in an Autism Speaks walk. Autism Speaks has walks throughout the year, all over the country. Get involved – become part of a team or start your own (obviously a donation wouldn’t hurt either).
Continue to educate yourself and others about autism. We live in a “need to know” society. Many believe that autism won’t impact them, but it does. Autism and intellectual disability is something we all need to know about and recognize. They are lifelong disorders that need respect and understanding, not ridicule.
But if you do nothing else, I hope you stand by your words. I hope you never use “autistic” or the “r-word” as an insult again. And if you hear someone else using it, I hope you correct them.
Read more of Lisa’s writing at AutismWonderland.
Photo Credit: PacificCoastNews.com