UPDATE: THANKS FOR YOUR SUPPORT! Thanks to nearly 4,000 of you, as of July 22, 2013, both Drake and J.Cole have issued public apologies and have also stated that the offensive lyrics will be removed! Thank you, Drake and J. Cole, for standing up and doing the right thing! To do so takes a tremendous amount of courage. Their apologies are available for viewing at the links below:
DEMANDS: A public apology and immediate removal of the offensive lyrics
This summer, Drake, a world famous rapper whose OVO label is under Warner Brothers Records, released a song (in collaboration with J.Cole) entitled "Jodeci Freestyle" that contains hurtful language, using "autistic" as an insult as well as "retarded." Today, I sent this Facebook message to Drake:
My name is Morénike, and today I learned that lyrics to your song "Jodeci Freestyle" contain hurtful references to individuals on the autism spectrum and those with intellectual disabilities. Currently 4 million Americans have intellectual disabilities, including a disproportionate amount of individuals from lower socio-economic backgrounds and/or people of color. In addition, one in every 88 Americans has a diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder, including my two youngest children, ages two and four years--and also most likely also me.
My children are the most amazing people on this planet. They are beautiful, sensitive, attentive to detail, and strong. I want them to love themselves and be proud of who they are. They are different--they are NOT less. There is already a massive lack of awareness of neuro-developmental disabilities such as autism and intellectual disability, and what little people do know tends to focus on deficits and/or stereotypes. The strengths and positive qualities of those with these conditions is minimized or ignored altogether in favor of messages that create pity, stigma, and stereotypes.
While there is absolutely nothing shameful about having an intellectual/developmental disability, it is hateful, ableist, and discriminatory to use terms such as "autistic" and "retarded" as slurs. Being autistic or having an intellectual disability ("retarded" is no longer the preferred terminology) should not warrant hatred and insults. You are a world-renowned artist with millions of fans and a huge impact, and could have used your influence to educate people and promote acceptance of disabled children and adults. Instead, you did the exact opposite. There is already a high percentage of co-morbid anxiety, depression, PTSD, and suicidality among youth and adults with these conditions, at least in part because of how society treats them. People’s ignorance and cruelty can be far more disabling than the diagnoses themselves. It is categorically UNACCEPTABLE to treat ANYONE with the disregard that you have shown us in your music.
I implore you to do the right thing, Aubrey. (I still think of you as the same Aubrey Graham I used to watch as “Jimmy” on Degrassi.) Man up and apologize for the hateful lyrics. Admit your wrongdoing, and take the time to become better informed. Maybe you might be inspired to work WITH us and fight for the rights of disabled populations rather than tearing us down.
Morénike Giwa-Onaiwu, Advocate
July 11, 2013"
However, the responsibility does not rest solely with Drake. Warner Brothers Records should not permit these lyrics to remain on this song. The label should issue a public apology and should insist that Drake rewrite this song with other words. The current version of this song should be pulled immediately, and perhaps the label and/or the artist should assist in making amends by working with the Arc, Autism Society of America, the Coalition for Independent Living, the Organization for Autism Research, the American Association for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, or any number of organizations that assist these populations to develop a PSA, a resource guide, a website, a scholarship, or some other mechanism to promote inclusion and acceptance rather than hate.
Over a hundred people in one day have already signed our petition demanding a public apology, removal of the offensive lyrics, and for meaningful efforts to be made to promote awareness and acceptance instead of insulting and belittling these communities. The voices of the people (autistics, concerned friends and relatives, allies, professionals, advocates, and the general community) will only get louder! This must be resolved immediately, or else a strong message of deliberate intolerance will be sent--one that will be even more telling than the words of the song already. Consider if this is the message that really needs to be portrayed...that Warner Brothers, Drake, and J. Cole think hate speech is acceptable. Make the right decision for the benefit of all involved, and for the greater good of humanity.