There is a viral trend on TikTok at the moment where parents introduce their children to their “new teachers” on a video call… but parents are using photos of people with disabilities to capture their kid’s disgust.
Global (31 August 2020) – I don’t look like you, and you don’t look like me. If we all looked the same, imagine how confusing the world would be. Our differences are our beauty much-like how a rose differs from a daisy and a dandelion.
As we are all learning now, there is no such thing as normal, only what society deems normal. But who says society is the ultimate authority on normal? Not me!
A viral trend on TikTok is doing the rounds and to be quite honest, it is very sad. The trend sees parents using a “video call” to introduce their child to a new teacher. What they actually are doing is recording their child’s reaction to a photo of a person they deem to be ugly or weird looking. The reactions of the children in these videos are supposed to be funny but many are confused, shocked or disgusted by the images they see.
These parents, in turn, laugh at their child’s reaction and then post it online. Not only is it cruel to the child but it also demeaning to the person in the photo.
What is most heartbreaking is that these parents are teaching their children that people who look different are weird, worth a laugh or disgusting. They are teaching their children to laugh at people with disabilities.
As always with the internet, where there is something bad, you need only dig a little deeper and you will find the good!
Two women, both disability activists and diagnosed with their respective genetic disorders, took to social media to condemn the videos trending and to encourage kindness instead.
Melissa Blake is an incredibly talented freelance writer and activist for disabilities. She was born with Freeman-Sheldon syndrome, a genetic bone and muscular disorder.
Parents used images of her face in the challenge and naturally, people reached out to tell her. The news hurt; of course, it would! However, Melissa took the insults and the laughs on her shoulders and wrote a beautiful open letter to the parents taking part in this challenge, teaching them to be kind.
You can read her full letter here but we have placed an excerpt below too.
“…because I look different, people have called me everything from “disgusting” to “a blobfish” to saying that I should be banned from posting photos of myself because I’m too ugly.”
“Adults who actually think this is okay, and worse…even funny, should know better. There’s absolutely no excuse. They should be the ones teaching their children how harmful and hurtful these pranks are, not laughing in the background as their child recoils at the sight of a disabled person. We live in a society where people who look “different” are seen as ugly and grotesque; those messages start being taught at a young age. Think about how many Disney villains have some sort of deformity.”
“So far, TikTok hasn’t done much to combat this online hate. When people report accounts that have been using my photos in this challenge, they’ve received statements that TikTok has found no violation of the platform’s rules. It’s not just there. When I’ve reported Twitter accounts for posting photos of a blobfish to bully me, more often than not, Twitter says it doesn’t violate any rules either.
I want to be clear: I am violated. Every single time. Each photo, taunt, and cruel word is a clear violation of my dignity and my worth as a human being. And every time these platforms fail to take action, they’re sending the message that this bullying is okay. So many disabled people have become inured to our appearance being mocked. That’s not something we should ever have to get used to.”
Lizzie Velasquez is a writer and motivational speaker who was once named “the ugliest woman in the world”. Lizzie was born with an extremely rare congenital disease called Marfanoid–progeroid–lipodystrophy syndrome.
She uses her platform to spread kindness and raise awareness for people with disabilities. When she saw her face being used in the challenge, she too spoke out against it.
“I knew this was coming. When I saw this trend start I knew it was coming. Some have been cute and funny but then it starts to cross the line. Showing your kids a photo of someone who looks different in hopes of them having a scared reaction is vile. I’ve seen this trend be done with people who are disabled and I’ve seen this trend be done with BABIES who have Down Syndrome. They don’t have the platform to speak on this but I do and I know I have an army of positive people right next to me. I will say this over and over and over. The people you put in photos or videos are human beings!! We have feelings and we have something we work on everyday called self-confidence. Please PLEASE don’t teach your children that it’s funny to be afraid of someone who doesn’t look like them. When adults are upset their kids are being bullied, this is the perfect example that teaching kindness and acceptance starts AT HOME. Just be kind to one another. We need it now more than ever!!”
One of Lizzie’s followers turned the entire challenge on its head and used it to teach her son to be kind. Take a look below.
So, should you be prompted to take part in this challenge, lead with kindness and use the moment to raise awareness. We are all unique and that should always be celebrated!