Hate speech about disabilities still hurts

IMAGE COURTESY OF THE SENSORY SPECTRUM

Nickolas Hughes

Opinion Editor

Autism has had a negative connotation added to it that needs to stop.

As of late I have heard various people around campus say the phrase, “That is so autistic.” The fact that the word autistic has become a derogatory slur is both infuriating to me as well as insulting. It’s common knowledge for those who follow my writing, but I am autistic. I find it insulting that using the phrases mentioned above is becoming a norm. The same thing happened to the R-word.

At its core this is a civil issue that needs addressed now. The notion that being autistic is a bad thing is wrong. I want to make one thing clear though. I did not choose to be autistic, but I have accepted that I have it and I use it to help myself and others get through it. It is not fun having autism. I do not enjoy my panic attacks and paralyzing fear. I do not have a job because I am too scared to get one. I am currently taking six credits this semester and I am struggling with that.

I am going to give a definition that will clear up why using autism as a derogatory slur is wrong. The word is discrimination. It is “the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex.” According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “Harassment can include, for example, offensive remarks about a person’s disability.” I bring up this quote because using the word autism as a slur is harassment, even if it is not used in the presence of someone on the autistic spectrum. By using it as a slur a person is making it acceptable to the ones he/she are around. It is not acceptable.

What also bothers me the most about the issue is the callousness that others dismiss what I am saying. I do not understand why wanting to change something so that it is better for the community is a bad thing. I have talked to people who feel like it is an issue that has no bearing. That I should not get all riled up over this. I think I should. The dismissal is unwarranted and I also think that my worries are necessary. A lot more people should get upset about this. I do not think that people should rest easy while hate speech is becoming common.

This is because using autism as a slur is hate speech. The definition of hate speech is, “attacks a person or group on the basis of attributes such as gender, ethnic origin, religion, race, disability, or sexual orientation.” I believe that the perpetuation of hate speech is something that should be stopped. I know I am saying that phrase a lot, but I believe that it is critical to drive home my point.

Autism is not a choice for people who have it. I do not believe in making fun of someone at any time, but especially when it is something beyond their control.

I want to challenge my readers to call people out when they say something distasteful or hurtful. There is no need for it.

Let your friends know what they are doing is wrong.

Let them know it hurts someone.

Let them know it is damaging.

I am also challenging my readers to start working on themselves as well. I know that I make mistakes a lot of time and that I am not perfect when it comes to what I say. I want you to be transparent with yourself and examine yourself for things that are hurtful in what you say. Try to check yourself for hate speech. Try to stop yourself when you get ready to say something hurtful.

The saying, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” is false and I want people to know that words can hurt you. They will hurt you or me, and that what you say matters.