Open Letter to Mr. Robert Kennedy, Jr.

robert kennedy, jr.

 

 

 

 

 

“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.

 

Mr. Kennedy,

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

 

 

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Statement on Kayleb Moon-Robinson

Kayleb Moon-Robinson — who is diagnosed autistic — had barely started sixth grade last fall in Lynchburg, Virginia, when a school resource officer filed charges against him. Kayleb was charged with disorderly conduct for kicking over a trash can and then with felony assault on a police officer because he struggled to break free when the cop grabbed him. The Center for Public Integrity analyzed national data and found that Virginia schools refer more students to law enforcement than other states, and that nationally schools refer black and special-needs kids to cops and courts disproportionately. Credit: Charlie Archambault/Center for Public Integrity

Kayleb Moon-Robinson — who is diagnosed autistic — had barely started sixth grade last fall in Lynchburg, Virginia, when a school resource officer filed charges against him. Kayleb was charged with disorderly conduct for kicking over a trash can and then with felony assault on a police officer because he struggled to break free when the cop grabbed him. The Center for Public Integrity analyzed national data and found that Virginia schools refer more students to law enforcement than other states, and that nationally schools refer black and special-needs kids to cops and courts disproportionately.
Credit:
Charlie Archambault/Center for Public Integrity

CAN is keeping a close watch on the case in Lynchburg Virgina involving a young child named Kayleb. Kayleb is a child facing criminal charges after allegations of misbehavior at his middle school.

Kayleb Moon-Robinson was just 11 years old when he was arrested at school last fall. According to reports, criminal charges “began piling up” after being scolded one day at Linkhorne Middle School, where Kaleb is said to have kicked a trash can. A police officer assigned to the school said he witnessed the “tantrum” and proceeded to file criminal charges against Kayleb for “disorderly conduct.”

Weeks later, Kayleb was singled out, and instructed to wait in a classroom, while his peers were allowed to leave. The school principal sent the same officer who’d previously accused Kayleb of “disorderly conduct” to get him from the classroom. Kayleb reported that the officer “grabbed” him to take him to the principal’s office. Kayleb said that he tried to push away from the officer, and that the officer reacted by slamming Kayleb down and handcuffing him.

Kayleb is a minor child. We believe that his parent or legal guardian should have been present before any charges were filed, and before any incidents were escalated beyond the school. Kayleb is autistic. Kayleb has rights that are protected by federal and state law.
Many questions remain, and this case is a serious cause for concern for our community. This organization is working diligently with other advocates in an effort to seek justice for Kayleb Moon-Robinson.

As we work to help protect Kayleb- and to prevent the needless destruction of his future-we are urging the greater community to take a long, hard look at the state of our education system. Education has long been considered a beacon of hope for many children and families, but that hope is dimming as our schools increasingly resemble a pipeline to prison. The abuses in this current system disproportionately harm disabled and minority students. This egregious abuse of our children, along with the misuse of our schools and law enforcement resources, can no longer be tolerated.

What kind of world do we want? Should we be proud of a culture that shoves children into the criminal justice system, without representation, for petty allegations, and questionable circumstances? Is this freedom? Is this justice? Have we not progressed beyond this point in matters of civil rights? It’s time to speak up, ask questions, and get informed. Kayleb is not the first child to face this level of discrimination, and he probably won’t be the last. But we can create changes and we have a duty to try. Children like Kayleb can’t wait on us. The time is now.

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Person First

Person first. Are people inherently seen as people first? Are women? Are men? What about people of different races? Has anyone ever described a man as a person with maleness? Ever heard a white person described as a person with whiteness? There’s no need to separate those things from the person, because they’re already seen as people first. Right? Why would anyone need to separate a person from autism? We’ve talked about this many times over the years. We’ll continue sharing autistic perspectives on “person first” usage.

The following is a post by Ben Edwards, and it’s shared here with his permission.

A note on person-first language: I have heard you don’t say “an autistic person” because you wouldn’t say “the fat man” or “the short boy.” Well, maybe I wouldn’t, but that might be because I’m sensitive like that. Anyhow, if that is the case I want to hear terms like “the man with racism” or “the girl with promiscuity.” Why don’t I hear those? Because in this culture, those things are shamed, not just the behaviors, but the person doing the behaviors. Whereas obesity, shortness, and other physical ways of being, we want to not shame the person (most of us anyways, I hope) but the way of being itself. But why is that? Is it because we believe these people are lazy or they’ll never date the popular girl in school? Well, if you look at autism, you see that we have all these sorts of preconceived notions about them. They can’t lie, they’re good at math, they can’t understand sarcasm. And it’s this limited way of understanding that takes away their humanity. So what do we do? We detach autism from them, rather than our preconceived notions about what autism is like for them. In our obsessive person-first language culture, we continuously associate autism with negative stereotypes-they’ll ruin my marriage, they can’t learn to communicate-myths perpetuated by society and various organizations such as Autism Speaks. If we view ourselves that way, it’s because we’ve learned to hate ourselves because of discrimination and stigma. You think we’ll learn to love ourselves by teaching us to disassociate with part of who that is. You insist on saying “person with autism” so we know that’s not the only part of ourselves. This shows your neurotypical sense of superiority by implying we aren’t smart enough to figure that out for ourselves. It is the stigma of autism, perpetuated by the stereotypes autism makes you think of, that makes us feel low about ourselves, and by not acknowledging that, you choose to be part of the problem.

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