Letter to Toni Braxton Regarding Diezel’s Autism Status

Letter to Toni Braxton Regarding Diezel’s Autism Status
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Toni Braxton with Diezel at the premiere of “Motown: The Musical.” Courtesy: Essence

Dear Toni Braxton,

Recently, you have announced in an interview with Access Hollywood that your youngest son, Diezel, “is no longer autistic,” giving credit to Suzanne Wright–in light of her death from pancreatic cancer–for his ability to “overcome his diagnosis.” I’m sorry to have to say this as a fan of your music, but…

Wave LMETYWTBS
Wave the Swallow resting on her hoverboard in issue #22 of “Sonic Universe.” The original speech caption, “LOOKS LIKE MY SENSORS WERE RIGHT AFTER ALL!” has been edited to be replaced with, “LET ME EXPLAIN TO YOU WHY THAT IS BULLSHIT.” Courtesy: Archie Comics

To say that your son is “showing no signs of autism” is to say that he has been taught to mask every trait that comprises his neurology in order to pass as a normal, average person. In other words, you and the therapists Wright referred him to have taught him that being autistic is frowned upon by society–and it shouldn’t be. Diezel may be a social butterfly now thanks to the speech and language therapy he received in school, assuming he wasn’t referred to a therapist outside of an academic facility, but that does not stipulate that he’s transformed into a neurotypical person.
Oh, and the “my son Diezel suffered from autism” line? The word “suffered” should only apply to cancer patients, NEVER autistic kids. God only gifted Diezel with the ability to think differently from everyone else.

I know all of this from my experience as an autistic woman–or an Aspie, as I like to address myself. At 18 months old, I was diagnosed with PDD-NOS. Translation: Autistic. Most boys are given a specific autism diagnosis, like Asperger’s syndrome or severe autism. Since I was a girl, the doctors didn’t know which end of the spectrum to place me, so they slapped PDD-NOS on my psychological record. I was enrolled in special education classes and mainstreamed from kindergarten until 3rd Grade, when the powers that be decided that I was intelligent enough to attend regular classes. However, I walked back and forth between my regular class and a special ed class for extra help in math until the 5th Grade. I maintained average to above-average grades, but I was forced to repeat the 3rd Grade based on my low scores on the standardized test formerly known as the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT). I even had to go to a speech and language therapist until the 8th Grade, although I didn’t attend a lot of sessions in 6th Grade. My teachers treated me with the utmost respect, but how my peers treated me was a different matter. While some kids were friendly with me, others just bullied and teased me for exhibiting some of the traits that came with my autistic brain, such as taking their jokes too literal, expressing interest in things that either everyone else has supposedly outgrown by the 5th Grade or earlier is strange to them, and attaining a higher GPA than most students in my class. To put it lightly, I was a glutton for verbal punishment. I even thought of being autistic as a curse because of everything I did–singing and listening to J-Pop songs, whispering to myself (both privately and publicly), expressing my love for the Sonic the Hedgehog video game franchise despite all the production problems some its games endured, and avoiding school dances (even prom, but that’s another story). Eventually, I learned that if other people don’t respect my interests, then that’s their loss.

I may have received help in learning to be sociable, but that doesn’t mean I’m “cured of autism.” Absolutely not. Society shouldn’t expect me to be less autistic, nor should they punish me for living my life differently. Just because I show some of the aforementioned quirks, doesn’t make me a bad person. My family and friends love me unconditionally for who I am. I expect you do the same for Diezel.

And for the love of God, stop supporting and working for Autism Speaks. Suzanne Wright may be gone, but the organization’s mission is still a gargantuan farce.

 

Your fan,

Cristina Alexander

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Eulogy for the Ableist

I know all of you religious folk are expecting me to read a verse from the Bible. As much as I would love to read such words of inspiration written by the hands of God, today I would like read a quote from a whole different source and explain why I chose such a quote for your dearly departed Suzanne as theologically as possible.

“Darkness sleeps in every heart, no matter how pure. Given the chance, the smallest drop can spread and swallow the heart.”
Anybody wanna guess where this quote came from? Anyone?
Since no one has the slightest clue who said this, I will tell you that the philosopher who wrote this originated from a work of fiction. Not a novel, but rather a video game produced by none other than Disney and Square Enix, called Kingdom Hearts. One of the main characters, Ansem, is the fictional philosopher in question who wrote the same words I recited to you earlier in one of his reports regarding his studies of the darkness of the heart.

Suzanne Werner-Wright, like most people, was born with a pure heart–a heart that saw no imperfections in anyone, even if they saw themselves or others as imperfect in any way. But as soon as one of her grandchildren became autistic, Wright struggled to prevent darkness from unleashing itself inside her heart. The more imperfections she saw in her grandson, the more darkness had taken hold of her heart and drove her to stomp out people with the neurology under the guise of charity.

Instead of providing us autistic people the supports and accommodations we felt were appropriate, Suzanne did us a grave disservice by stigmatizing our neurology through advertisements claiming that autism is a disease that spreads faster than cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined; that we contribute to the 50% divorce rate in this country; and that our behaviors, intentional or otherwise, bring shame and embarrassment to our families in public places.

Instead of focusing on the positive aspects of autism–high IQs, intense focus on fields interesting to us (be it STEM, arts and literature, video games, music, or even history), enhanced vocabularies–Suzanne scrutinized the complications autism brings–anxiety, meltdowns, and speech impairments–and referred our families to mental facilities notorious for abusive practices, like applied behavioral analysis (ABA) and electric shock therapy, she believes are designed to eliminate our behaviors and, ultimately, cure autism.

Despite her best intentions, Suzanne NEVER advocated for the acceptance of autistic people. All she’s done in her last 11 years of life was encourage the wider society to tell us over and over again that being autistic is not okay, therefore we should be punished, or even killed if need be.

Eulogy for the Ableist caption
Black and red grunge texture wallpaper bearing the sentence, “Suzanne did us a grave disservice by stigmatizing our neurology through advertisements claiming that autism is a disease that spreads faster than cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined; that we contribute to the 50% divorce rate in this country; and that our behaviors, intentional or otherwise, bring shame and embarrassment to our families in public places.”

Take a look at me. I’ve been autistic for most of my 22 years on this earth, and I know a lot about the life of an autistic person ten times better than Suzanne has. Did I cause my parents’ divorce when I was almost 2? No. Have I ever embarrassed my family in public in any way? Maybe, but I don’t remember exactly what I did to embarrass them. Does the fact that I received speech and language therapy and acquired social skills from pre-K to 8th Grade mean that I’m no longer autistic? ABSOLUTELY NOT. I only attended one Autism Speaks walk in my sophomore year of high school, and I never went back. Suzanne’s “Call to Action” speech in Washington, D.C. two years later confirmed my decision to not walk for the organization since she deemed us and our families “not living.” Upon hearing this from John Elder Robison, who resigned from the Autism Speaks Board of Science, I plucked the two puzzle piece bracelets I got from the Autism Speaks walk out of my purse and threw them in the trash, ultimately renouncing my support for the organization.

I’m proud to be autistic, and I’m glad that I’ve met people who are on the same boat as me. Together, we are working and/or have worked to defeat every demeaning autism stereotype in Suzanne’s book. She said that we will never attend college and graduate with a degree; we are, and we have–because we have every right to an education. She said we will never leave our parents’ homes and find jobs we’ll be successful in; we are, and we have–because we have every right to live independently. She said we’ll never find love, get married, and raise children (if we so choose); we are, and we have–because we have every right to be in loving relationships.

About Suzanne’s claim that autism is like cancer–the joke’s on her. Darkness had spread everywhere in her body and consumed her before she even had the slightest decency to apologize to all of us for saying such lies about us. I understand that where she will go from here depends on the Lord’s judgment, but because she has promoted ableism against us all these years, I believe she does not deserve to spend eternity in Heaven.

If I ever have children and any of them turn out to be autistic–which is likely due to genetics–I will treat them with bountiful love and respect, and raise them to advocate for their human rights if anyone ever tells them their lives and their contributions to society don’t matter. I will never subject them to any abusive therapies and treatments Suzanne and other so-called “autism warrior parents” swear by to change them. Don’t agree with me? Then I have a special guest here to sing a song dedicated to you and all those who have supported Suzanne’s ableist endeavors.

Ladies and gentlemen, here’s Disturbed performing “Who Taught You How to Hate” from their latest album, Immortalized.

Good night, everybody.

 

On Freedom of Speech: A Response to an Egyptian Author’s Arrest

When E.L. James released the provocative BDSM novel Fifty Shades of Grey in 2012, the British government didn’t slap her with a long-term prison sentence for writing “sexually explicit” material, nor did they stop it from selling millions of copies worldwide. Four years later, Ahmed Naji has been sentenced to two years in prison by the Egyptian government for producing the same content in his novel Using Life, an excerpt of which was published in a magazine. The prosecutors believed that Ahmed’s writings violated public modesty, saying that a man experienced heart palpitations, an illness of some form, and plummeting blood pressure after reading an excerpt of the book.

I normally don’t write about things like this due to the sexual content involved, but because I am a proponent of universal free speech, I’m making Naji’s case an exception.

The United Nations stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that every human being “shall enjoy freedom of speech.” Unfortunately, there are courts in some countries, like Egypt, that are depriving their citizens of that basic human right in the name of modesty, and those who dare to write and/or create products they deem to have intellectual and substantial value are facing prosecution for exercising that right. Ahmed Naji is one of those creative people. I don’t agree with the fact that he threw some steamy sex scenes in his book–then again, I haven’t read Using Life because it hasn’t been shipped to the U.S.–but according to Article 19 of Egypt’s constitution, Naji does have the right to express his views in that manner as long as he exercises some responsibility. The least he could’ve done was have his publisher place disclaimers before the first page or on the back of the book that warn readers that certain material contained therein–i.e. obscenities–may not be suitable for some, especially children and those with weak constitutions. But the Egyptian court decided to call Naji’s novel a legal offense to morality regardless; therefore they are violating the right to free speech granted by their own constitution.

You don’t have to like certain material that people write, paint or sing, but don’t imprison writers and artists for providing such content in their creations. I don’t read Fifty Shades of Grey because of the explicit content and a lack of substance, yet other people have been reading the trilogy. Yes, I’m discontent with the existence of the series, but I don’t call the author nor her readers out on it legally, especially the author. If James wants to continue writing steamy novels for her fans across the pond and beyond, I won’t judge her because she is within her rights to produce such content as long as she’s conscious about the impact her work might leave on the world. Fifty Shades of Grey surely left a mark on the pop culture industry, as it was adapted into a feature film, with two more films–or three, if Fifty Shades Freed will be released in two parts–in production. I detested Family Guy for the exact same reason when I was younger despite the TV-14 rating, so I shielded my eyes from it as much as possible. It was only during my high school years did I slowly understand the reason behind the show’s popularity: Just as with The Simpsons, the producers of Family Guy, especially series creator Seth MacFarlane, offer their satirical view of every aspect of society as we know it by way of cutaway gags, from pop culture to politics to religion to the education system. Did I call the producers out on some of the mature content they placed in the show? No. But some conservative groups, including the infamous Parents Television Council (PTC) have written to Fox, imploring the network to cancel the series since the very first episode aired in 1999 despite the fact that they place a “VIEWER DISCRETION ADVISORY” disclaimer at the beginning of each episode. Family Guy initially got cancelled in 2003 due to low ratings, but a boost in DVD sales and rerun viewings on Adult Swim prompted the production and airing of new episodes, thus proving an animated show of its kind is too popular to be silenced by the demands of über conservatism.

Sure, Fifty Shades and Family Guy had their controversial moments, but at least nobody directly involved in these creative endeavors got arrested for “destroying social values.” Why should both Ahmed Naji and his novel be any different?

An Overdose of Racism and Pride in the Police Force

An Overdose of Racism and Pride in the Police Force

Two of the most deadly sins in this world are Pride and Prejudice.

I had just finished watching the 007 film The World Is Not Enough when I flipped my DVR back to CNN and saw a YouTube video of a police officer pinning an African-American teenage girl to the ground while arresting her. The girl in question was attending an end-of-the-school-year pool party with her friends, some of whom got arrested as well, at the Craig Ranch North Community Pool in McKinney, Texas, when her group was put out by the security guard. A woman at the pool made racist remarks at the kids, such as “Get used to the bars outside this pool, because that’s all you’re going to see,” and “Go back to Section 8 [public] housing.” One of the white teens, apparently the daughter of that same woman, talked back to her about her attitude towards the group, and the fight between the two broke out. The other adults called the police to report a disturbance “involving multiple juveniles at the location, who do not live in the area or have permission to be there, refusing to leave,” referring to the black teens who committed no crime whatsoever. As soon as the police arrived, one cop, Cpl. Eric Casebolt, began yelling to the kids, “GET YOUR ASS ON THE GROUND!” While the other officers were detaining the other teens who were pleading that they just arrived for a friend’s birthday party, Casebolt pinned down the 14-year-old girl and pulled out his gun on her as she cried out for her mother and begged for release.  Some kids rushed to her aid and shouted, “That’s my cousin! Why are you doing this to her?! She didn’t even do nothin’!”

Neither did the other kids who came to the party.

The video, shot by one of the kids who posted it on YouTube the next day, proves there are still some law enforcement officers who are just too damn overzealous with their jobs–not to mention the racist views they hold against African-Americans of any age. It’s as if decades of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s noble work towards equality has gone down the drain. As a matter of fact, some police officers have been defacing King, Jr.’s work for the past three years, if not longer. I’m extremely disgusted at how prejudiced the justice system has become towards the people who are just the same as us despite their skin tones. Cpl. Eric Casebolt and other prejudicial and overzealous police officers are the ones who have committed a crime, NOT the innocent teenagers.

Never Judge a Person By Their Shirt

Never Judge a Person By Their Shirt

Until very recently, I never had any problems with someone giving me harsh judgment for wearing a T-shirt embedded with one of my favorite cartoon/video game characters (except maybe in 6th Grade, but that’s another story). Precisely one month ago, I was going to my World Geography class wearing a pink Classic Sonic shirt and denim jean shorts–it was already too hot for me to wear pants of any sort in South Florida. My stepdad looked at my attire for the day and said that I looked like I was going to kindergarten instead of a college class. I couldn’t tell whether he was telling the truth or joking about it, but I didn’t give a shit regardless. The next day was worse. I planned on going to another campus wearing my Black Butler tank top, black shorts, and Ed Hardy converse shoes. Cute, right? Not to my stepdad, who still had the audacity to tell me that what I was wearing was “not age-appropriate for college,” even though the Black Butler shirt was women’s medium and I bought it from Hot Topic. I cried almost the entire time I was in my Western Civilization class, barely writing down the notes about Ancient Rome that my professor wrote on the whiteboard as he was lecturing. I asked my classmates and the professor if they deem me immature for wearing such attire–they said no.

Yesterday, I told my mother that my bathing suit–a two piece that’s designed to look like Ciel Phantomhive’s green outfit–was ready for pickup at Hot Topic. My older brother asked me what kind of bathing suit it was, and when I told him “Black Butler” he groaned. To make matters even worse, my mom said that someone asked her how old I was the day before simply because I was wearing a red Hello Kitty shirt (which I bought from the juniors department at Wal-Mart, by the way). I got extremely pissed off at hearing that someone thought I was 12, not 21. I was even more enraged when my own mother and brother mocked me for wearing clothes that featured my favorite video games and cartoons/anime.

So I beg the question: Why the hell is my family judging me for wearing clothes based on my interests in video games and cartoons/anime? It may have a lot to do with how society views people in the gaming community: man-children who would rather spend every waking hour of every day playing video games and watching cartoons/anime in lieu of attending school and/or holding down a job. I find this to be an extremely vicious stereotype, and I can’t believe that this is coming from some family members who claim that my teachers will downgrade me for exhibiting my interests in such popular forms of entertainment despite the fact that I take my schoolwork very seriously and that people will take advantage of me for doing so–both of which I never had to deal with.

I firmly believe in the basic human right to freedom of speech and expression, and if I want to wear my Classic Sonic shirt, my Black Butler tank top, or a My Little Pony T-shirt, that is my right. I shouldn’t let anyone tell me otherwise.