“I want to apologize to all whom I offended by my use of the word holocaust to describe the autism epidemic. I employed the term during an impromptu speech as I struggled to find an expression to convey the catastrophic tragedy of autism which has now destroyed the lives of over 20 million children and shattered their families.”
–Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
We are outraged by your vile remarks about autism. Your apology statement only added further insult to autistic individuals and families. The rhetoric you’ve employed is littered with offensive hysteria. Despite public outcry from medical professionals and scientists–even in the face of new outbreaks and preventable deaths–you chose to spread misinformation.
Whether you choose to acknowledge vaccine safety or not, it is deplorable to perpetuate fear and contempt of autistic people. Many in our community have taken the time to reach out in an attempt to help educate you. The fraud that you are spreading isn’t just about vaccinations. It’s about people. Autistic people are not to be exploited or used as mere tools in your advocacy against vaccinations. Your legendary family is esteemed across the globe. Nothing has prevented you from having better insight than you’ve displayed. You have been blessed with an abundance of opportunity to become more knowledgeable. You have been surrounded by people who celebrate the beauty of human diversity. Your family’s efforts to defend civil rights, and to serve people with disabilities, have inspired a lot of good in this world. But you have inexplicably decided to promote ignorance. That decision has terrible consequences. Referring to autism as a catastrophe encourages more abuse and discrimination against autistic people.
We do not seek an apology from you. Empty apologies will not bring positive change. We are demanding that you acknowledge our community. Look at us. Listen to our voices. Your notions about vaccines cannot excuse the hurtful remarks–which were heard by our children. You have the right to express yourself, but you must recognize and respect our rights too. You must be aware of the influence your words have on society. Autistic people have struggled enough. And contrary to your egregious claim, no one in our community is missing a brain. In fact, autistic individuals and families continue to needlessly struggle due to bigoted attitudes like yours. You apologized for the use of the word holocaust. You recognized the humanity of those who complained about it. But you thought nothing of demeaning autistics. By continually referring to our lives in horrific ways, you have shown the world that you do not recognize the humanity of autistic people. Would you say the things you did about any other group of people?
Autistic people and concerned allies are telling you and the rest of the world that enough is enough. Our community will no longer tolerate dehumanization, whether it comes from you or any other source. We autistics and allies are looking forward to a brighter future because we are creating it. Maybe you are determined to spread fear. But we are even more determined to promote our truth. You say that autistic lives shatter families. We believe our families have the right to be proud. We don’t see ourselves as broken, or shattered. We are not victims. You refer to our lives as crises. In spite of such miserable depictions, we will shine our light. Now more than ever, we cling to hope. We believe in the goodness of our neighbors and fellow citizens. You may demonize our differences. But we believe that love–not fear–is the way forward.
Speaking out against hateful commentary is important. There is so much to contend with as we work for advancement–fear of us, and our fear in a world that’s often brutal to us. We are no longer silent. We are not going to be victims. We are united, and we are standing up to resist any further oppression. We struggle because we are committed to leaving a better world for our children. We struggle so that autistic people will no longer be subject to bleach, skin shocks, or other abuses labeled as autism treatment. The purpose of this letter isn’t simply to shame you. We need you to understand how you have hurt us. We need you to understand our struggle. It is our hope that you will one day stand with us on the right side of history.
The Council for Autism and Neurodiversity
“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
Robert F. Kennedy