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Open Letter to Drake and J. Cole

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Dear Drake and J. Cole,

I’ll admit, I’m just a suburban mom. I’m not your target demographic, I know that. In fact, I’m not even a fan (I’m partial to Linkin Park). I wouldn’t be able to name one of your songs to save my life. But all of a sudden I’ve become all too familiar with your new song, Jodeci Freestyle.

My son is autistic. I go into his school every day and try to help the other children understand and accept him. My husband and I, we fight. We fight like hell to get the school to provide the supports our son needs. We fight our urge to dismiss other children as mean bullies, and instead look for opportunities to teach understanding and acceptance. But when you release a song like this, you are undoing all our efforts. Who will the kids be listening to, some kid’s parents, or well-known, popular rap artists?

You are putting my son in danger. You see, he is getting closer and closer to middle school, and we know that kids start separating into groups and picking on other children at that time. When you throw out the term “autistic” in such a negative way, you are planting a seed in children’s minds that people with autism are less; less intelligent, less important, less than human. What effect will that have on my son? What effect will it have on the millions of autistic kids out there?

Autistic people are already a population that suffers from inequality. They do not have equal job opportunities, medical care, or rights. These things cannot ever improve if people in the public eye continue to spread hatred and misinformation. You are perpetuating a negative stereotype that keeps a minority group disenfranchised. I’m sure you can see the irony in that.

I’m begging you (because being a parent means not being too proud to beg), please do the right thing and change the lyrics. Changing one line of your song could be the difference between acceptance and being ostracized for autistic children. Our children live with the danger of bullying every single day. You could help make that better, rather than worse, by doing the right thing.

Please help me. I’m fighting, we’re fighting, for our son’s future; his survival and ability to navigate the world depend so much on what happens in these early years. Please don’t make our uphill climb an exercise in futility. We, and so many others, will never forgive you for that.

Do the right thing. Lift our children up, don’t tear them down.

Sincerely,

Flannery, just a suburban mom to an AMAZING autistic boy

For anyone interested in sending a message, there is a petition HERE requesting an apology and change to the lyrics.

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About Flannery

Kid, husband, dogs, my mother, full-time job, maximum stress, minimal relaxation...sooner or later I had to vent. AND we moved from California to Texas. I could start a whole other blog about that.

75 responses »

  1. ROSEMARY COATES

    Thank You….. I can never thank you enough. .. I am crying here…. with the pride of the parent of an asd child. ..THANK YOU! Every achievement my child makes is pure joy.. but like your son … she is now learning that being autistic can be used against her by other children and even adults. WE fight all day every day for our children’s rights to just have what every other child gets… its hard enough. Thank you for hopefully getting the change started in the music industry which is where a lot of influence in society comes from. Maybe this is the beginning of a major change.

    Reply
  2. Oh Flannery, You took the words right out of my mouth, sweet mama. Thank you.

    Reply
  3. Catherine Brown

    Thank you! As long as we continue to speak out, we can hopefully get people to change their thinking. As the mother of a child on the spectrum, when the word “autistic” is used in a derogatory way, it hurts deeply, as does the use of “retarded”, “short bus”, and other such terms. No one says derogatory things about cancer patients and people with other medical issues, so why do children with developmental disorders and those with mental illness not get treated fairly? Life is hard enough for a neurotypical child during the school years. Can they not see how much harder it is for a child who is different?

    Reply
  4. Who knows, maybe they actually will change it. Remember when the Black Eyed Peas changed Let’s Get Re****ed to Let’s Get It Started?

    Reply
    • They didn’t. There was just a radio edit that’s all. And they quite clearly state in the song that they’re using the word retarded in a strictly non ‘connotatious’ context.

      Reply
      • So why was the song released in 2003 under the title “Let’s Get Retarded” but then re-released in 2004 under the title “Let’s Get It Started” if not due to public pressure? I’m asking because I’m truly curious and you seem to know the song pretty well.

        Reply
    • Its called a radio edit, it happens everyday. The Black Eyed Peas did not change that lyric because they wanted to, they changed it because they had to so they could get it played on the radio.

      Reply
  5. Exquisitely written. Thank you. I totally shared this on FB…off to do the same on Twitter.

    Reply
      • Kyle Hutchins

        What I wanna know is how a suburban mom who says she’s never hear one of their songs before. Jodeci is not a really popular song. People know about it,but those are mainly people who for real listen to hip hop or are just big fans of them. If she hasn’t heard songs like the motto or power trip,how the fuck did she come across this?
        Not only that,why was she sitting there analyzing it of she doesn’t like it? Cole says that lien and its the last verse and toward the end. That means she sat there and listened to the whole damn thing. This is just unnecessary complaining in my eyes

        Reply
        • Word gets around when someone has done something unkind. My job is to advocate for my son, and others with autism, and sometimes that means visiting unfamiliar places.

          Reply
  6. Yep. What you said.

    Reply
  7. this is the reply I left on Facebook when I shared your blog – I am NOT a fab of rap. but, I do read blogs…and now that autism is here…I read autism blogs. I have never heard of Drake & J. Cole until tonight…in this blog. And becasue I was curious…I googled them and the song she is refering to.
    OK…nope not a song in my book. Ignorance is what I see, not talent…not music.

    Its down right disgusting that people pay to hear this and its those people that actually listen to the lyrics…..and those are the ones that take it to heart and bully those that are made to be treated less than.

    people like this will only write another song to “be hatin’ more”

    Reply
    • While the particular lyric “autistic, retarded” can be debated and is disrespectful, it is also disrespectful for you to sit there and say that the song is not music, talentless, ignorant, etc. This song is a tribute to legendary R&B band from the 90s, who were very talented and very musically-gifted. Even though there was an offensive lyric, the song itself does in fact sound nice and appeals to those of us in the black community. There is nothing ignorant about hip hop and rap. It is music of our culture. Just because you don’t understand it, doesn’t make it ignorant, talentless, etc. Even though I could have criticized the kind of music you like (rock, alternative, boring music), I did not. Simply respect other people’s music or don’t say anything at all.

      Thank you.

      Reply
      • Clearly… your not a parent with a child/adult with special needs. Clearly.. you haven’t encountered ignorance from people towards your child in the community. Clearly.. you haven’t had your child with special needs come home in tears because a child has bullied him/her from school just because having special needs somehow gives an open to pass to be bullied. Why don’t you walk in my shoes then walk in my child’s shoes then we will talk!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        Reply
        • What the hell are you even talking about? This man isn’t even arguing that the lyric isn’t offensive. He is sticking up for the artists he enjoys, he’s sticking up for the music. Clearly…you don’t understand that people can be as passionate about music as you can about autism. Clearly…you don’t realize that you can that you can be on both sides of the issue. Clearly…you don’t know how to use ellipses.

          Reply
        • This is not my name

          umm… i don’t think you read what he said. he understands but all of the other negativity was not necessary. also if you want to read an apology written by J. Cole you should check out his twitter.

          Reply
  8. I haven’t listened to this song and only heard about it today in a couple of different places. It just disgusts me. It’s exactly what you said, all of the work and the ways that we fight for acceptance of our children can be undone with one single, stupid, heartless, disgusting, song. Because the people that bully our children, adults and kids alike, are just the type of people who will listen to these lyrics and agree with them. They will think that it’s cool to demean autistic children and it will make it worse. It just pisses me off beyond belief that someone can be so heartless and so cold when they know the millions of people that will hear this song.
    AAAAGGGHHH. Okay. Rant over.
    Great post!!

    Reply
  9. We must stand up and be counted for those who can’t do it for themselves. Do what’s right not what’s popular.

    Reply
  10. Marci Grunewald

    First, I loved your letter and I agree with your letter 1000%, if there is such a thing! I am the Mom of 2 children on the spectrum. I have both Autism and Asperger’s running around my house filled with love and looking forward to making their mark on this world. But for you, I pose a question: Since most of these rap artist failed out of school and are for the most part street thugs, do you think you are speaking a language they can relate to???? I, as an college educated person can understand, sympathize and empathize with what you have to say, but I honestly feel that ignorance comes from a lack of education or a lack of decency or caring! Please understand, I am on your side here… I just don’t think that this is the way to get through to these people and since I don’t know the language we come off as snobs. Also, Since you are such an educated parent, would your time be better spent educating the child that there are mean and dangerous people in this world and build up self-confidence rather than to depend on everyone else to change to accommodate our children. My children are 11 and 15 yrs.of age and I have taught them to follow their instinct..if someone gives you a bad feeling or makes you feel like less than you are…walk away. Be polite, but walk away! Let an adult know what’s going on, but walk away. Don’t allow someone to take who you are away from you, you a wonderful young man and Autism does not define you…it makes you someone who sees things differently…sometimes better than we can see, it allows for a different perspective.We celebrate alot in my house and we don’t depend on the ignorant people to define us and you shouldn’t either!

    And besides, Millions of people will only hear this song if we keep making noise about it, they are not a household name in the rap industry. Their song means nothing in the scheme of things.

    All my best,
    Marci

    Reply
    • I hate to break it to you but J Cole is a college graduate. Heck, he even put his rap career on hold in order to attend St John’s University on a full academic scholarship and graduated with high honors.

      You certainly demonstrate your open, accepting approach to life by failing to consider rap as a valid form of artistic expression that is performed by, as you so charmingly stereotype it “uneducated” “thugs”. Or that it can be written and performed by educated individuals. You don’t have to enjoy rap music to be willing to concede that, as a genre, it has a right to exist. Rather like your kids with autism, non?

      I agree the lyric is offensive and derogatory – but it’s also an artistic choice… that’s getting a million times more attention than it would have without a campaign to get it changed. Them again, that’s the beauty of living in a free country!

      (I know I’ll be slammed for this, but it’s worth noting that there is sometimes a relationship between the actions of a child with autism and “bullying” from their peers. For example, a darling boy on the spectrum who has Tourette’s spent an entire year yelling “Fatty Patty! Fatty Patty! €#|]<*" dozens of times per day – his aide thoughtfully kept track – at my daughter, which is not considered bullying because it is a manifestation of his disability. It is, however, considered bullying for my daughter and her classmates – all 7 of them; ah the joys of small town life! – to not invite the darling boy to their birthday party).

      Reply
      • I see really great points on both comments, and just wanted to add to kaytee’s comments that in addition to the j cole facts, drake for sure is also a household name. This is not an obscure person that no one pays attention to, millions watched him on the Degrassi series, then a whole new slew of young fans jumped on board for his rap career. Neither one of these young men would be labled or considered thugs and dummies by anyone who knows who they are. You have to make sure you know the facts of the people you call out on before you attempt to. And just so it’s clear where I come from in understanding all points, I’m a young mom of two spectrum boys.

        Reply
      • I suggest you research tourettes and copralalia. People who have these syndromes only repeat what they have heard, so he must have heard this from someone else. My 24 year old Grandson has both and his life is made a complete misery because of the lack of understanding. He has no friends and no social life. So before you recommend that this child you speak of not be invited to a birthday party, I suggest you explain to your daughter that he does not mean what he says and cannot help it.

        Reply
        • @J Clark: On an intellectual level, I understand that this boy is repeating what he’s heard and that his vulgar language is involuntary. I’ve explained it to my daughter on numerous occasions. Darling Boy’s Mom even talks to the class about her child’s disability at the beginning of every school year and sometimes as a little “refresher” during the year. They’ve been classmates since kindergarten in our teeny-tiny town (one class per grade; it is the only school in our teeny-tiny town).

          Intellectually, I get it. Intellectually, my girl gets it (well, as much as an 8 yo can) – but hates being teased and called vulgar names by this kid dozens of times per day, every day. Hates hates hates it! As do many of her classmates – and I can’t blame them.

          I require my kid to be polite to Darling Boy, as this is what stops the world from descending into anarchy. The social contract requires this, yes?

          I *cannot* make her like him. Given that she has been (involuntarily) sworn at dozens of times per day for the past three years and will be for another five years (til the end of 8th grade), I flat-out refuse to make her spend time with him outside of school.

          I sympathize, it must be awful for your grandson to have no social life… but please try to see it from my girl’s perspective. If you were 5 or 7 yo, would you want to have a playdate with the kid who — yes, involuntarily — spends 35 hours a week saying truly horrible things to you??

          Reply
  11. I haven’t listened to the song either. All I know is that autistic children are special. I pray that the people that wrote this song have child that is autistic then maybe they will understand . No i do not wish that one more child is born with special needs. I just want people to understand that these kids are so very special. We need to protect them. These people that make these songs (or what ever it is ) don’t understand and maybe they don’t have a brain to understand. I feel sorry for them. Because people like these don’t have a heart either. Maybe they have special needs also. Just maybe they are the one that should be put in a place that was set aside from everyone.A place that house all of the bully and meanies and heartless people. Like a camp or something and I don’t mean just for the summer. They shouldn’t be able to mingle with anyone or put there views for anyone to hear.

    Reply
    • Let’s make a camp and put everyone who thinks/says mean things in it, that’s a great idea. Then maybe we can make one for the jews too, that would be a great idea.

      Reply
  12. What is wrong with people?! You hit the nail on the head with this. Blergh.

    Reply
  13. Ok never heard of this group nor the song so off to google I go. But I can say this, with out hearing it, I want to know when someone in the music industry will grow some balls and call these people out for their insensitive bull shut lyrics. Thanks for making me aware of this. Now to listen and fire off some letters.

    Reply
    • Wtf. There is so much wrong with the lyrics of that song. I am mad. I am mama grizzly bear pissed.

      Reply
      • So I started a petition addressed to all the head honchos at Warner bros. records and to the “musicians” demanding the lyrics be removed and an apology issued. Please come and sign it.

        http://www.change.org/petitions/warner-bros-records-and-octobers-very-own-remove-offensive-lyrics-from-drake-jodeci-freestyle#

        There are thee guys on the track. Here is the kicker for me. One of them is Drakes own father. You would think he would have taught him better than that.

        Reply
        • Why do you feel the need to censor someone’s piece of art? Sure other might be offensive but what gives you the right to censor it?

          Reply
          • I am a firm believer in free speech and artistic expression. However explain to me how this is artistic expression? We all should know that autism and mentally challenged ie retarded is a medical condition that is often times causes the individual and the people who love and care for them great sorrow, hard times etc. how is it artistic expression? To use words and situations that many people have to deal with that causes great emotional turmoil and make fun of it? Would it be ok if it references cancer patients? How about gays with AIDS?
            How are we to build a society or tolerant people if we allow insensitive shit like that to be excused by artistic expression?
            Btw I am a lover of art, I am an artist I am also an activist and I would never think to make art in a away that demoralizes or insults an individual. And I love hip hop and some rap. I have accepted the artistic, cultural excuse for the way women are talked about even though I do not agree with it but this is simply not acceptable.

    • Patricia Grabowicz

      Tracy, I agree with you 1000%. In cases like this, freedom of speech be damned! I have a 24 year old moderately mentally impaired son at home. He surprises me all the time with the words he learns and uses appropriately. Just recently he got a job working at a grocery store. Woohoo! He’s more of a productive member of society than any gang banger. Now who’s less than zero???

      Reply
      • what do gang bangers have to do with this? drake is from middle class toronto, and j cole is a college graduate

        Reply
      • Freedom of speech exists for a whole host of reasons, and ultimately your mentally challenged son’s feelings do not matter under the laws surrounding it for a reason. He is free to choose to not listen to that song, much like everyone else.

        The idea of J Cole being a gangbanger is laughable. He’s college educated, and over the course of his career will pay millions and millions of tax dollars, some of which might even go to support individuals like your son who are a net-loss for society fiscally.

        Reply
        • I enjoy your freedom of speech. Right here on my blog. Where I mentioned that the song is irresponsible.

          Reply
          • I’m not denying that you’re allowed to dislike the song and its message, i was just replying to Patricia above who thinks offensive song lyrics should be banned and that you can refer to rappers as gang bangers because she ultimately knows nothing about them

          • I don’t justify putting a label on anyone. And I think the reason the lyrics are even more disturbing is the fact he IS college educated. He should have better sense than to mock people with disabilities.

  14. I have never heard this song either. I also have a son with autism and had to look it up. On top of demeaning women and a clear lack of any artistic writing ability, this song is pure trash. What has happened to music when it’s acceptable to tear down another person based on sex or ability. I can’t believe he throws around words like “autistic” and “retarded.” I can’t even think clearly enough to put together a coherent sentence about it. Love your letter. Thanks for being the voice for our children. Isn’t it bad enough that we have to battle the school systems to get any help they need? My son is now an adult and I am waging war with the work-force center to try to get him some help finding a job. It seems like it’s a never ending battle and now, we have to fight no-talent pop-culture wannabes too?

    Reply
    • Patricia Grabowicz

      Amen!

      Reply
    • That no talent wannabe was just on the top of the billboard charts. He’s released 2 of the most acclaimed mixtapes of the 2000’s and graduated near the top of class on a full scholarship at St. John. Just saying I’ll give you that the line can be offensive but really people like things you don’t like it’s just a part of life. My cousin is autistic and I love this song, just because you’re not a fan of something doesn’t even come close to meaning that these rappers who have had more success than you have ever are “no-talent pop-culture wannabes”

      Reply
    • You are very unhappy that your son has been bullied and has had trouble finding paid employed employment, and that he has been mistreated because of stereotypes of autistic individuals, yes?

      You are, however, perfectly happy to label two empirically talented (Grammy awards; rave reviews) and successful (Grammy and other awards; #2 song on the Billboard charts; millions in record sales) as “no-talent, pop culture wannabes” only capable of creating “trash” music? Really? Ironic, dontchathink??

      Reply
  15. Ok, so just to make sure this wasn’t just a scam letter to blast this kids music, I read the lyrics to his song, isn’t this Drake kid a Nikelodeon alum?? What in the world. This lady is spot on, not only does he use Autism in a negative light in his verse but then he further condemns children with Autism by coupling the word with “retarded” which is such a broad negative slang all on its own. I am very disappointed that the only word the writer of this song could come up with to rhyme with “artistic” was “autistic” – could (s)he not have Googled or used a thesaurus, a word like surrealistic or opportunistic… would go more in line with the song lyrics and the point Drake is trying to get across as he blasts a fellow “emcee”. Why does Rap always have to be so “hatin'”? why cant it be fun or silly… like Will Smith’s music (for the most part anyway) Course with that said is not only Rap that throws out the “ho’s” and “bitches” like its nothing… most popular music besides country and gospel these days throws out negative slang with no regard to any repercussions…if you read the lyrics he then goes on to say to this other “emcee” that he, Drake, is Columbine?! Really, he couldn’t have just said “Rambo” or something … he had to use such a negative event to get his point of hating this other person? Getting off my soap box, just wish a little education would be used when songwriters try to get their point across.

    Reply
  16. I listen to Drake and I never will again. He is an asshole for saying these words in his song. I am so mad, he def needs to change his lyrics!!!!! My son is 8 yrs old with autism and this not ok!!!! Very mad right now and dissapointed in everyone attached to the making of this album!

    Reply
  17. Personally, I think the whole song is pointless and ignorant. So many words that are misused, none of it makes sense. The autistic remark is obviously ignorant & then add to that the fact that he has to use the “N-word” in EVERY line, shows lack of creativity & encouragement of racism. Maybe he thinks it’s ok to use this term, but does he then have a right to be upset when other races repeat it because they’re imitating them?
    Anyway, I love the way this letter is written. Thank you for trying to put a stop to this ignorance!

    Reply
    • Should a white suburban lady really be able to criticize someone for saying nigga? What do you know about that word? I doubt you’ve ever been called that, so don’t act like you understand it.

      Reply
      • Jamal, I criticized him for his use of the word autistic. Reread the post. It’s a free country, I can criticize whatever I want, especially if its hateful and prejudiced against a minority group.

        Reply
        • he was referring to the comment he replied to. and a black (half black) man saying nigga is not prejudicial to any minority

          Reply
        • So it’s a free country, you can say what you want but J. Cole can’t? Hmmmmm.

          Reply
          • It’s sort of like saying “it’s a free country, we can say what we want” when white people were denigrating black people, and asserting they were inferior to whites back in the 50s and 60s. Just because you CAN say it, doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to say. It comes down to what you want to put out in the world, and whether creating a society of hostility and mockery toward a marginalized group is worth it to sell records.

        • I can’t reply to your other comment but you’re the one saying “It’s a free country, I can criticize whatever I want” Why should you be allowed freedom of speech but not J. Cole. You’re asking for censorship of ideas you don’t agree with. All of this is a mute point however he just recently apologized on twitter.

          Reply
          • And also the song was put out for free neither Drake nor Cole made anything from that track

      • Also, who said I was white?

        Reply
  18. I do agree that the lyric is offensive and should be changed, but I do not agree with people completely going down on rap music as a whole because of this one offensive lyric in the song. People have responded calling J. Cole for instance a thug and uneducated. FYI, J. Cole is a college graduate and even put his rap career on hold in order to attend St John’s University on a full academic scholarship. He graduated with high honors. For people to say that he is a thug off him being a black man that happens to use the artist expression of rap music alone is IGNORANT in of itself, just like the lyric people are outraged by.

    Also, in people expressing their disdain for the one offensive lyric, they expressed disgust for the song as a whole calling it ignorant, talentless and music-less altogether. This is disrespectful. This song is a tribute to a legendary R&B band from the 90s, Jodeci, who were VERY talented and VERY musically-gifted, fyi. Even though there was an offensive lyric in the tribute song, the song itself does in fact sound nice and appeals to those of us in the black community. There is nothing ignorant about hip hop and rap music, and people who use it to express themselves. It is the music of our culture. Just because you don’t understand it doesn’t make it ignorant, talentless, etc. I could have criticized the kind of music a lot of people like, like country, rock, alternative, etc., but guess what? It’s disrespectful. So I won’t.

    Point: You can sign the petition to have the offensive lyric changed, but in doing so, RESPECT other people’s music as a whole, or don’t say anything at all.

    Thank you.

    Reply
  19. I don’t see a problem with the lyrics. Is autism not a form of retardation?

    Also, some of these comments are just ridiculous. Drake is a grammy award winning artist and J. Cole graduated college with high honors. To imply they are talentless, uneducated, or “thugs” just proves your ignorance and assumptions about the rap industry. Ironic how people trying to fight ignorance are propagating ignorance themselves.

    Reply
    • No, it’s not the same as mental retardation. Your argument doesn’t hold water. You’re saying his education makes it okay for him to disparage a minority group. I’ll bet that excuse was used a lot in the 60s.

      Reply
      • What he’s saying is that people are commenting attacking drake and j cole for who they are, not what one of them said.

        Reply
  20. Begging an industry to change will not help anyone.
    I am not being pessimistic, nor do I lack empathy, but this writing is simply a fruitless action.
    These artists are promoted and driven by willful ignorance, and will continue to be selected for advancement in such a culture until their market value degrades.
    This article does nothing but bring attention, and therewith possible support, by promotion to these artists.
    Your heart is yearning for something your logic does not define.
    Namaste.

    Reply
  21. Pingback: J. Cole’s Apology Letter to the Autistic Community ‹ ProfessU

  22. Pingback: [News] Drake Apologizes For J. Cole’s Autism Line On "Jodeci Freestyle" – newcreationrecords.com

  23. Pingback: Drake Apologizes For J. Cole’s Autism Line On "Jodeci Freestyle" | Today Health Channel

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