Drake’s apology for autism joke is sadly incomplete

Drake and J. Cole back off an autism crack, but don't address their use of the r-word

Topics: Autism, drake, j cole, down syndrome,

Drake's apology for autism joke is sadly incompleteDrake (Credit: AP/Lynne Sladky)

This week in things that really still shouldn’t need to be said but apparently do still need to be said: Drake and J. Cole have apologized for making fun of people with autism. On the upside, they turned what could have been just another media shamewalk into a true example of learning from a mistake, and accepting responsibility with grace. On the downside, we still have a long way to go, everybody.

The controversy started over the track “Jodeci Freestyle,” in which J. Cole declares, “I’m artistic, you n—-s is autistic, retarded.” It’s a flippant put-down that was rightly challenged for its hatefulness. Holly Robinson Peete, the mother of a 15-year-old autistic son, said on “Access Hollywood” last week that her son “loves J. Cole, loves Drake,” and had asked her about the track, wondering, “What does this mean?” This, she said, her voice cracking with emotion, “is an issue… I just don’t know that these artists understand the power that they have. Because my son is struggling to fit in. And I mean struggling. So when I see an artist with this kind of following, who is writing not just ‘autistic,’ but trying to make it the new R-word, it’s not going to happen on our watch… I hope he apologizes and I hope he takes it out. Take it out.”

Fortunately, unlike Rick Ross, who weakly apologized this past spring to “all sexy ladies, the beautiful ladies” that his rapey “U.O.E.N.O.” did not in fact “condone” rape — and explained his way right out of his Reebok deal before he got to trying again a second time, these guys at least worked on their mea culpa enough to make it sound sincere right out of the gate. In his lengthy, explicit apology, Cole stated that he too feels unmoved when public figures mumble their way through contrition for the sake of “saving an endorsement or cleaning up bad press.” Instead, he said he was “embarrassed” by his words and that “To the entire Autism community who expressed outrage, I’m moved and  inspired by your passion…. I feel real shame. You have every right to be angry…. There’s nothing cool about mean-spirited comments about someone with Autism. You deserve  medals, not disrespect. I hope you accept my sincere apology.”

On his blog soon after, Drake then chimed in with his own “sincerest apologies for the pain this has caused.” He added, “Individuals with autism have brilliant and creative minds, and their gifts should not be disparaged or discounted. This was a learning lesson for both of us, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to try to right this wrong. J. Cole and I believe that it is the right, responsible, and respectful decision to remove the lyric from the song.”

It seems ridiculous that people with autism and Down syndrome are still so casually used as the butt of jokes and insults, that MTV even now describes the dust-up as “PG by rap standards,” as if mocking a large group of individuals, essentially writing them off as stupid, is no biggie. And yet, here we are. That’s why it’d be a further step forward if Drake and Cole had also directly addressed the “retard” problem. In April, Cox media found itself facing a lawsuit after a Florida radio show featured a real kid with Down syndrome for its “Retarded News.” And the pervasiveness of the word has been on copious display this summer, in the way Rachel Jeantel responded to George Zimmerman’s defense team with a “That’s retarded, sir.” The heinous current cast of “Big Brother” likewise has no trouble bandying about the word, nor did “Girls Gone Wild” creator and all around slime-bucket Joe Francis — who later regretted his “hurtful” characterization of the “mentally fucking retarded” jury that found him guilty of assaulting and falsely imprisoning three women.

As Robinson Peete has pointed out, that “Jodeci Freestyle,” lyric didn’t spring up out of nowhere. It was considered, written, rhymed and recorded. It should never have gotten that far in the first place. But because we don’t yet have the time machine technology to undo the mistake, the next best thing is a sincere act of atonement. It’s a worthwhile step in educating a public that clearly desperately needs regular reminders that it is not cool to be so arrogantly hateful toward human beings – human beings with struggles and joys and loves just like everybody else. It’s imperative to consider our words and their power, and to try to do better. After all, you only live once. And you don’t want to do it as a jerk.

Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and the author of "Gimme Shelter: My Three Years Searching for the American Dream." Follow her on Twitter: @embeedub.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 14
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"

    One of our first exposures to uncomfortable “Girls” sex comes early, in the pilot episode, when Hannah and Adam “get feisty” (a phrase Hannah hates) on the couch. The pair is about to go at it doggy-style when Adam nearly inserts his penis in “the wrong hole,” and after Hannah corrects him, she awkwardly explains her lack of desire to have anal sex in too many words. “Hey, let’s play the quiet game,” Adam says, thrusting. And so the romance begins.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"

    In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"

    Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"

    We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"

    On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"

    Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Tad and Loreen, "The Return"

    The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"

    Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"

    While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"

    As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"

    Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"

    Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"

    There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.

  • Recent Slide Shows


Loading Comments...