Alright, what the heck does this title mean and what the heck does it have to do with autism, especially autism and disparity?
Let’s explain a little deeper;
Kanye West was interviewed by BBC radio and he made such true statements on how shaping the message can make or break an artist. I know you are thinking – what? how is this about autism and this persistent disparity? Bare with me – it will make sense at the end.
Let’s start from the beginning. Shaping the message of anything is probably the most important way for success or failure in everything. If you listen to Kanye’s interview – he talks about how his records don’t get played a lot by radio DJ’s and stations. For instance, when a radio DJ plays a record constantly and says (this is sooo good, creative, inspiring, blah blah blah) what happens?
You listen and even if you did not like the first take, it grows on you. Then what happens, you buy the record, you post it on your FB, share it with your friends, etc. This creates what – a HIT. And, Voila – you got a star by repeat rinse and repeating their message or record. This is how JT, LadyG, M&M, KC, and the likes of them create mediocre records & shows that turn out to be hits. Then what happens, a TV or movie producer calls you and books you for their next project. Then what happens, a product marketer maybe Nike or Calvin Klien (remember Marky Mark and how CK took off his career) calls you and you get a deal with them. From there the sky is the limit because now you are the “it” person that must be followed by TMZ and sets trends. It is all about shaping the message to create the product or the desired end result. I hope you get that blk ppl.
Now, if you are Kanye or any other African American person – what happens? It is hard to get your song played over and over, it is even harder for that marketing person to call and forget them taking your creative ideas into reality. Mr. West just said what probably every Black person in America feels or felt at some point in their life.
Now, let me put this into autism and disparity context. Often when I advocate at the MN State Capitol, there are hearing committee rooms full with people and I am the only Black person. I kid you not. These are health and education committees where Blacks are doing horribly, yet those speaking, listening and making policies look nothing like us. Then sometimes there is one or two and they are either quite or brown nosing to the point where they don’t even come out for air.
Another area – remember when last session we were able to get a bill passed for low income autism families who are disproportionately minorities that was so unique and set a precedent. Guess how hard it was for us to tell that story. I remember explaining to various reporters and they would say – Ms. Abdull – what is the story here?
In my mind, I would say are you kidding me. The story is simple Black parents were able to beat and win over K street lobbyist and bias politicians and you still don’t see the story. Telling our own stories, writing policies for our communities and speaking for ourselves is very hard and frustrating.
By the same token, the media was too happy to write opinions and report the need to support wealthier and non-minority children’s need to cover their therapies. For us – hooyadaa Mareexaan yay ka tahay nalama oranayn. Think about that.
There are endless times in my little autism advocacy area that I am the lone person speaking for minorities. This can get tiring and depressing, but I look at it as an energizing drink and keep going like an energizer battery. Because sitting quietly and allowing our kids to be discriminated against simply because of their skin color is not acceptable. Change comes from frustration and frustration comes from reality, and the reality is disparity exist because of racist policies created by racist policy makers. There is no other way to slice it or sugar code.
But, as the saying goes – if there is a way there is a will. My take and the best way to do this is;
First, let’s elect politicians that will hire policy advisers and staff including for higher positions that look like us and if they don’t let’s fire them by un-electing them. (let’s give an example here – Dan Pollock and Lauren Gilchrist). Don’t get me wrong, these are highly intelligent and articulate people, but the kind of chance and opportunities they were given in short few years to be at the top of their game and will even move higher is an example of how unequal opportunities are by the very people we elect to office to represent us. I can think of a number of equally intelligent & articulate African Americans (Warsame and Michelle) who are almost never given the same chance. They are always told by the likes of Alana P and heartless hammer Smith or even Chris W – you just don’t have the kind of background, experience, blah blah and BS we are looking for.
2nd, Let’s create African American lobbying agencies to lobby for our issues in state and Congress.
3rd, Let’s built and create Black version of TMZ, Kimmel, Extra and keep selling our product and people. Repeat rinse and repeat really works, it subconsciously ingrains the message.
4th. Let’s take their no’s and turn it into a YES for our communities and our future.
5th. Let’s give back, teach our kids what we know and never let someone else dictate our future. We need to create the future we want for our kids and our communities.
6th. Let’s always stride to shake the status quo because quite frankly the status quo sucks from every corner of health, education, entertainment, fashion to you name it. I can’t think of any industry where diversity is the name of the game, where equality is the norm and where faces reflect this country’s diversity and ethnicity. That alone should energize us beyond imagination.
I remember a while back, Tyler Perry was asked why Hollywood does not hire Black actors and he said because those telling stories are mostly not black and a writer writes about what he knows. The point is, if Blacks became writers – they could tell their own stories. If enough producers, directors, publicist and reporters looked like us then the end product would reflect us. The same analogy can be applied to my little world of autism.
Think about this – Minn has over 300 autism teachers and about 10 are Blacks. Minn has 2 dozen autism therapy providers and zero are owned by a person of color or even run by. Yet, our children are diagnosed with autism higher. Hence, the endless disconnect of what and how our kids are taught and treated. Gov Dayton has two dozen commissioners and the one that controls the agency with the least funding is headed by an African American person. Think about that. Who elected Gov Dayton and imagine if our votes were connected to his policy, staff, diversity or lack thereof. Just imagine that and vote differently in 2014 – Please.
I think Mr. West was not only truthful in how so many of our ideas and thoughts are suppressed, but was inspiring and motivational. And Kimmel – really. I doubt if your skin color was different, your mediocre show would exist.
Finally – let’s learn to shape our own messages so that words like prosperity, positive and fantastic are embedded in everyone’s psyche. Shaping the message is the key here.
Idil – Somali Autism Mom & Minority Advocate