Monday, June 30, 2014

Not in My Home @SesameWorkshop #BoycottAutismSpeaks

Image Description: A photo of me in 1982, turning two years old. I have a Sesame Street Birthday hat and dark blue overalls on, standing in front of a cake decorated with Ernie, Bert, and Big Bird and lit birthday candles. My grandmother is standing over me, helping me clap my hands. My uncle is in the background smiling with my same age cousin, also in a party hat. It is one of my very first memories. I wanted to eat the character decorations more than the cake. Thirty years later my Autistic twins also had a Sesame Street themed second birthday. It was a completed circle in my life.
It was beautiful, but now it is not.

To all those involved in the creation and distribution of Sesame Street Workshop programing,
To all those who view Sesame Street programing,

For my Autistic friends and family,
For my Autistic sons,

Today I will take down the Big Bird wall hanging in my Autistic children's play area. I will gather their books and toys with the brightly colored characters and put them in a box. I will put the photographs of my second birthday and my sons' second birthday away. I will take the Grover magnet that has been on my refrigerator for the past 30 years off. I will be done with Sesame Street.

Today is the day that Sesame Street is no longer welcome in my home.

I will NOT, however, be done protesting their partnership with Autism Speaks.

I am mad. This month, we at #BoycottAutismSpeaks have pushed hard. We have worked tirelessly to help Sesame Street Workshop understand the mistake they have made by supporting Autism Speaks, and to learn about Autism from the source, Autistic people themselves. We did this because we care about Sesame Street. We worked because we love all children and believe they deserve an authentic education no matter the topic. We rallied because we appreciate the advances in civil rights Autistic adults are making. We dug deep because Autistic children deserve better from Sesame Street, and from the world. Everyone deserves better than Autism Speaks and the fear inducing tactics that they use. Every single one of us.

That is it. Everyone was welcome on Sesame Street, at least that is what the show has always portrayed. For some reason though, Autistic children and their elders aren't allowed on the street. Though Sesame claims to want to include Autistics, they partnered with Autism Speaks, which is an organization that clearly wants Autism to be eliminated. Autism Speaks treats Autistics as if they were diseased, when the truth is, they are simply a natural part of our human diversity. If my Autistic children, my Autistic family, and my Autistic friends are not welcomed as they are on Sesame Street, well then Sesame Street is not welcome in our home either. I will NOT subject my children to that bigoted approach.

Sesame Street is not simply ignorant now. Their stance has become willful. They have had a month, and longer, to figure some very basic things out, like Autistics do not want a cure they want acceptance and inclusion. Yet, they have chosen to ignore our attempts to reach out. They have ignored Autistic people themselves. They have been pretending as if we do not exist at all. Their actions serve to silence and erase a people trying so desperately to be heard. Sesame Street has the opportunity and now the knowledge, to become a true ally to Autistic people, which is exactly what Autistics need. Sesame Street has one of the only platforms big enough to compete with the monster that is Autism Speaks. They have made no attempts to do so. They have chosen to work against Autistic rights, human rights. They have stood firm in their partnership with the enemy of Autistics.

And I will continue to stand firmly against Sesame Street.

Though the damage they have and will do by maintaining their support of Autism Speaks is most important and detrimental to the Autistic community and their loved ones, Sesame Street has also done a major disservice to themselves. No longer can they claim to be a champion of diversity. I will call them out every time. We should all call them out. Instead of learning about Autistic culture, learning about the beautiful, and creative, and loving, and sensitive people that Autistics are, they have denigrated their own values by avoiding us. They have betrayed themselves. It's a shame that Sesame Street is not what it used to be. I can't imagine it was all a hoax, but doing the right thing is hard, and they have taken the cowardly way out.

Sesame Street, you are not welcome in my home as you are. You must change your mind about Autism!

When you do, I will gladly open the door again.

Until then,
Heather Clark

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