This past week, my Ohioan autistic advocate blood was boiling over the news of bullies who pulled a faux ice bucket challenge on a 14-year-old autistic kid. Bullying happens to kids all of the time but it’s one thing to know it and another to see it. Thanks to the permanent 24-hour record of the internet, these kids will have a record of their crime for all of the world to access anytime. The interwebs, kids, is in ink.
As of this writing, no one really knows who the perpetrators are but it is believed to be fellow students at the same Bay Village, Ohio, high school.(And honestly, does anyone believe that the kids in that school have NO IDEA who did this? C’mon, these kids can’t eat a sandwich without an Instagram post. Puleeze!)
Bay Village is an idyllic western suburb of Cleveland. Family Circle rated it the #1 of 15 Best Towns for Families in 2012–Hooray! It’s the type of place that your annoyingly-smug upper-middle-class cousin lives with her adorable soccer playing children; the type of place where they wash their cars EVERY Saturday. A “good” neighborhood.
If you didn’t know, Cleveland is a majority minority city, but Bay Village is not (it’s like 96% boring old white folks) and for Ohio it’s an upper-middle-class town. Now, I’m not totally against the white-upper-middle way of life; it’s nice that someone’s got their shit together. But I am pretty goddamned sick of these dumbass privileged kids from the ‘burbs fucking shit up! What the hell?!
I know that bullying affects kids regardless of race or class but its so disturbing that these suburbs (in towns like Newtown, Columbine, Bay Village, etc.) where appearing better than everyone, smarter than everyone, richer than everyone trumps things like compassion, decency, kindness. You know, stupid crap like NOT pouring shit on an intellectually-disabled child.
Maybe my standards are too high.
Or maybe our collective standards are just absurdly twisted. When is US News going to put out a ranking of the kindest high schools in America? How about a rating of colleges with the happiest students? What’s the point of all of this breathing and walking around in a meat-suit if we aren’t learning ways to get along better with everyone?
I’m just done with suffering news of your overachieving, smart kids. Please don’t brag about gifted classes or AP placements, not to me. Instead, tell me something worthwhile like “my kid likes turtles,” because that is honestly way more useful to me than some soulless ego-stroking bullshit that you’re only telling me because you want to feel better about yourself.
Your children, your collective investment in the universe, aren’t worth the effort if they are going to be assholes.
I know that this incident isn’t the first time a Special Ed kid has been shit on and it’s probably not the last. People all over this planet are capable of some terrible things, even when it’s not videotaped. I live in the Park Place neighborhood of Norfolk, VA, where a few years ago, a star football player was shot in a gang initiation shooting and where a six-year-old accidentally shot himself playing with a neighbor’s gun. Horrible.
But somehow I’m just not scared of my bad neighborhood, because everyone here is just trying to get through the day. But the amount of sheer cruelty and disregard for human life that emanates from these white and privileged suburbs does frighten me because those are the kids who will grow up to run this dump. The kids in my neighborhood will join the Navy and get jobs and just try to stay out of the way, and that’s a fact, Jack. But that’s just my anecdotal nonsense; both the highschool in my neighborhood and the one in Bay Village ended up on Newsweek‘s Best High School list of 2013.
Of course, things in Bay Village are just fine now; they had a rally! Go Bay Village! Seriously, I know you need a collective hug, Bay Village, but you really need to just shut up and say sorry. I’m less than impressed with the way people handle issues in the special needs community in general. We spend a LOT of time “feeling” guilty and changing language and not a lot of time helping with things like peer-mentoring, where special ed kids are paired with general ed kids (uh, and better make sure that you facilitate the shit out of this program, because your general ed kids sound like a handful).
Obviously we have a lot of work to do. It’s hard to know where to start because there are so many big issues in this story; bullying, socio-economic status, media, stewardship. But I believe the biggest issue is generating compassion. You really can cultivate compassion in your life. And if YOU do it, maybe, just maybe, your kids will catch on and you can tell me about that instead of bragging about their grades. My autistic daughter and I would really, really appreciate it.