April Is Autism Awareness Month, Are The Mentally Ill Overlooked in Hip-Hop?

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Autism is a complex neurobehavioral disorder that includes impairments in social interaction and developmental language and communication skills combined with rigid, repetitive behaviors. The disorder covers a large spectrum of symptoms, skills, and levels of impairment. It ranges in severity from a handicap that somewhat limits an otherwise normal life to a devastating disability that may require institutional care.-WebMD

April is Autism Awareness month, and unfortunately mental illnesses are overlooked in hip-hop. Popular song lyrics usually use terminology associated with mental illnesses as punchlines and as a culture, is it time we start to acknowledge and treating individuals who might have mental illnesses the same? Last year, J. Cole made headlines and was forced to apologize for an insensitive punchline on his “Jodeci Freestyle” collaboration with Drake.

“I’m artistic, you ni**as is autistic, retarded”

Hip-hop isn’t the only source of the ignorance, because even outside of our culture individuals are desensitized to dehumanizing references in regards to being “retarded” and acting “autistic.” If statistics show that one in every 88 children are born with a mental illness, that means at least 10% of your 1000 Instagram and Twitter followers might have a disorder you don’t know about. Often, especially in urban communities, autism is often overlooked and can go undiagnosed due to social and racial inequalities taking priority.

For instance, Chief Keef allegedly suffers from Aspergers Syndrome, which is a disorder that affects language and behavioral development, but that shouldn’t change how we view him as an artist and human being. If Sosa does indeed have Aspergers Syndrome, it goes to show that even people in the autism spectrum can be functioning and contributing individuals to society, and should be treated just like everyone else.

With that said, that doesn’t mean we should be ignorant to mental illnesses and brush them off. Instead, we should accept people for who they are by acknowledging their differences and be willing to do whatever it takes to make their lives and their family’s lives more comfortable. It’s 2015, and using words like “retarded” and “autistic” in a negative connotation should be outlawed, just like derogatory terms based on someone’s social class, ethnicity, and sexual preference.