I have always been deeply grateful that I grew up before social media was a thing. I am glad that there are no videos of me for “educational” purposes. I am particularly happy that there are no videos of my trauma going around and had I been born two decades after I actually was there probably would be.
There is again a video of a disabled child making the rounds of the internet and the impact has been utterly horrific. I am not going to name this child or link to any of the coverage because the fact that all of this exists right now is already horrific enough. That this stuff will still be on the internet, very much attached to his name is unconscionable.
It is bad enough that his mother made the well intentioned but disastrous decision to both film and then publish a video of her nine year old child expressing suicidal ideation as a result of the bullying he experienced as a result of his disability and racism. She was hoping to raise awareness of the impact of ableist racist bullying. That video has now been viewed millions of times and been shared by countless people.
None of the reactions have shown that people understood what happened or the work to undo deeply ingrained cultural prejudice that needs to happen in order to actually change the reality of growing up disabled. The first response was simply pity. Pity that was mixed with shock and horror but pity nonetheless.
What followed were misguided attempts to cheer up this child. There was a fundraiser to send him to Disneyland. I’m not saying he wouldn’t enjoy the outing, he very well may. I however, do know as someone who was virulently bullied that a fun holiday would not erase the harm of the abuse I experienced. It would also not stop it from happening. Disabled people don’t need trips to Disneyland. We need systemic change that stops abuse from happening to us and resources to help deal with the abuse that has already occurred.
Unfortunately because pity is rarely a productive response to bigotry for many it soon turned into suspicion. This appears to be because people learned that the child’s family is not poor. Suddenly, this money raised for a holiday without their input is seen as something they do not deserve. Many people began complaining that it had been raised in the first place.
From there some people began to believe that this boy, who had been bullied to the point of wanting to die was not actually a child at all. The decided that he was an adult putting on an act.
I can confirm he is in fact a nine year old child.
People used prejudice about the way disabled people, particularly racialized disabled people look to ultimately label the entire situation a sham.
All of this is speeding around the internet internationally with persistent virality and all of it is tied to a traumatized child by name. In addition to the trauma that led to his thoughts of self-harm. He now has to deal with the fact that many people believe that he is lying.
The publication of his expression of serious trauma did not as was intended “raise awareness”. Rather it is currently compounding the harm he has already experienced. It is impossible to predict how long this will be used as a tool to dehumanize this child in the short term. Much less the impact it might have as he grows up and begins applying for university or entering the work force.
In the age of the modern internet, it will be far to easy to not only tie him permanently not only to this video showing extreme trauma which would be bad enough but also to the fallout that ensued.
The world was shown a deeply traumatized child and reacted first with pity and then with vindictive suspicion.
The way people responded is not really that surprising even as it fills me with rage. People have been sharing these kinds of videos for years and while they frequently go viral. There is no real corresponding social change. Not even in the area of “awareness”. No child deserves to have the world be this aware of them.
Yet, all I can now do is sit here and hope that as a result of the hateful fallout of this latest video shared in the name of “awareness” that the parents of disabled children will be more reticent in what they share about their children with the public.
Please, please never gamble your child’s well being for “awareness”. Please put the responsibility of creating change and learning on those who are ignorant of disability not disabled people trying to survive that ignorance.
Disabled children deserve privacy. That lesson should not need to come at the cost that this child is paying.
How to Support My Work
So now for the very in-depth appeal for support for my PhD. Please read through this, there are so many ways to help, including just sharing this blog post on social media.
If you want to help me buy books and other resources for my PhD, you can buy me an amazon gift card and send it to the following email address
The email is email@example.com
I will not be answering queries about my research through this email. It is solely a way for people who want to support my work to be able to do so. (this is a safety boundary). If you want to talk to me, find me on Twitter.
My research and supporting myself will get past the reading phase and there will be field work in my future. If you would like to help me fund my PhD in the long term you can
support me on patreon
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send an e money transfer to the email above (if you have scruples about third party sites) use the answer “scholar” for etransfers