In our world, people with autism vary by functionality. For some people who have autism, it’s easy to point out the traits and characteristics. For others, the traits and characteristics are hidden well. For people who are not directly impacted by autism, it’s important that we educate them on this. When it comes to educating people about autism in public, there’s no better person to make an example out of than Curtis Jackson, commonly known as 50 Cent.
Jackson, the hip-hop artist who was at one point Marshall Mather’s protégé, is no stranger to controversies when it comes to autism. Several years ago, Jackson made fun of someone online, saying that he “looked autistic.” I think it goes without saying that there is no “autistic look.” Autism isn’t something that changes your appearance. Furthermore, I’ve always had an issue with the way he used the term autistic. I’m sure you’ve heard people fling around the word “retarded” to describe something that’s not to someone’s liking. Stuff like that annoys me because for someone who is supposed to have a developmental disability with a social disorder, I know how to properly apply terms like autistic and retarded more than someone who is considered normal.
I remember sending a tweet to Jackson years ago regarding what he said. I asked that he takes time to learn about autism and tries to avoid this kind of controversy. I didn’t expect a response and I didn’t get one. Since that time, I had put this issue behind me, believing Jackson would learn from his mistake.
He did not.
A few weeks ago, Jackson was on his way to Cincinnati to promote his liquor brand, “Effen Vodka.” While leaving the airport, Jackson encountered an airport employee named Andrew Farrell. Jackson saw Andrew and asked his name. When Andrew didn’t respond and continued to perform his task at work, Jackson followed him and mocked him. He went from pondering what drugs he might have been on, to saying the new generation is “crazy.” He thought he made a great video, so he shared it on Instagram.
The backlash he received came in droves. After people learned that this Andrew person is diagnosed with autism, people on social media threw barbs at Jackson. Calling him trash, scum and a hypocrite, people let Jackson know how they felt about his actions. Then came businesses in Cincinnati. Several businesses that were ready to act as distributors of Jackson’s liquor, backed out in response to what Jackson did to Andrew and his family.
It didn’t take long for Jackson to issue a statement, apologizing for his actions that he called a “misunderstanding.” On top of that, he wound up donating $100,000 to Autism Speaks. While the family has accepted the apology and the donation to Autism Speaks is nice, I can’t fully embrace Jackson. In 2012, he labeled someone as looking autistic. Yet the irony is that when he actually saw someone with autism and proceeded to make fun of him, he had no clue that he had autism.
You know what could have helped Jackson out? Taking time out of his day to learn about autism. It’s not something that makes you look different. It’s not something that makes people crazy. It’s not something that should be ignored.
Will he take time out of his day and learn? Well, considering he had almost four years since his first controversy with autism, I would say unlikely. But then again, I did think the first time around he’d learn from this and he didn’t, so maybe now he’ll learn from this considering the fact that I’m doubting he’ll learn anything.