Earlier this week, the White House and autism organizations around the world celebrated the 10th annual World Autism Awareness Day. Actor William Shatner, best known for his role in Star Trek, changed his profile icon and tweeted his support into the related hashtag to draw awareness to the disability. Today, he was inundated with outrage from social justice warriors likened his support for autism awareness to hate speech. They further expressed their anger towards organizations like Autism Speaks, which sponsored the event.
Autism is formally classified as a disability that happens during pregnancy. Despite that, many people with autism live great lives. Yet it would be a stretch to call it a gift. As with many challenges people face, it’s usually something to overcome.
Autism Speaks is one of several global organizations that supports finding solutions across the spectrum and catering to the needs of individuals who suffer from it and their families. Critics refer to the search for a cure as a form of “eugenics.”
Shatner fielded a host of complaints from critics who demanded he preach “autism acceptance” rather than awareness—some of whom made it a crusade to dedicate themselves against Autism Speaks. He was linked to an article on Forbes decrying awareness for the disability. The hysterical article based most, if not all, of its criticism towards the organization on its founder’s longtime personal friendshipwith President Trump.
Having read the article, Shatner rejected the arguments and addressed his critics, including the founder of an organization called the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, which released a statement condemning the White House for its autism awareness proclamation.
“Instead of being the social warrior fighting against a charity; find an organization you do align with and become their advocate,” he tweeted. “I supported an awareness day hashtag that appears to be scorned by a group that doesn’t want awareness.”
His critics demanded an apology from him for supporting the hashtag and started one of their own called #notmycaptain to condemn him for his supposed “ignorance.”
“They apparently don’t want awareness so they attack (under the guise of educating) those that supported the awareness day,” wrote Shatner.
When one critic told him that the reason Autism Speaks is bad because it isn’t run by autistic individuals, Shatner responded: “I run a charity focused mainly on raising money for equine assisted therapy for disabled children. I’m not a child and I’m not disabled.”
Autism can be challenging for individuals afflicted with the disability, and the costs accrued for special education and their care is difficult for many families.
While a search for a cure to autism seems like a condemnation of autistic individuals—it isn’t. No one’s suggesting they haven’t a right to exist. Who wishes to be autistic and wishes hardship onto others? It would be akin to having a deaf child and refusing to provide them with hearing aids. It’s encouraging that we may one day find a cure through science.
However, some people—like the “self-advocates” criticizing William Shatner—are discouraging such research for the sake of feeling special by setting themselves apart from “neurotypicals.”