It’s been a hectic week at work and I haven’t had much time on social media. So last night while scrolling through my FB feed and catching up with group, I came across this video: “Autism Mom FURIOUS over Steve Harvey’s comments.”
It was not my intent to hurt any one. Sister Odell is a made up character, she’s not real and my intent was not directed at any other real person. And most certainly was not directed at any one you know. Again my apologies. The problem with comedy is ALL subjects can offend someone.
He’s passing the buck and blaming the character, rather than himself. And then he says that comedy offends everyone. That’s not really true. You can be funny without having to use special needs and/or disability as your punch line.
But I love the response written by Autism with a Side of Fries. Mama Fry writes:
“Not directed at any one you know” That attitude right there is the problem sir. Because it seems you feel that the only folks that MAY be offended are the ones that have a special needs child. Or that you are protected by the “laws of comedy.” Because next month is Autism Awareness month and I suspect you will slap on a puzzle piece lapel pin or rerun your show where you had some autistic child on it being adorable. Don’t tout us out when you need it and then throw us under the bus when you are lacking material for a skit.
Steve Harvey. Let’s talk about him for a moment.
His Twitter bio is: Proud husband, father, comedian, daytime show host, philanthropist and author. God has blessed me with more than I could have asked for! He has 2.73 million followers on Twitter.
Steve Harvey’s Facebook page has 3,244,752 likes – he is listed as a public figure.
The Steve Harvey TV Facebook page has 3,027,252 likes.
Steve Harvey’s Morning Show can be listened to live and on Soundcloud – he has nearly 4ooo followers. (Conveniently, the tracks for 3/25 & 3/36 have been removed but someone recorded it & posted the skit on YouTube.)
Steve Harvey is also a NY Times Best Selling author.
He’s also part of the Coca-Cola Pay It Forward Campaign – to nominate teens win a college scholarship.
It’s fair to say that Steve Harvey is someone people listen to. When he says something, when he insults an entire community – it’s heard by millions. It’s talked about in cars and at the office, retold at parties and shared across social media. Millions of people laughing at Steve Harvey’s Sister Odell making fun of individuals with special needs. While Steve Harvey laughs all the way to the bank…
And Steve Harvey is black. Autism among minorities specifically African Americans and Latinos is often diagnosed later (after four years of age). There is still so much stigma within our community about autism and intellectual disabilities. Children are being bullied at school and in the playground due to lack of understanding and ridicule.
Special needs isn’t a topic usually discussed among people of color. In mainstream media, our stories are rarely shared. When a celebrity like Steve Harvey ridicules the special needs community – it hurts so much more than it helps. While he says his joke wasn’t directed at any “real person” – it was. It was directed at millions of people. His joke was cruel and insensitive. Sister Odell jokes about a “32-year-old woman being slow and blowing bubbles and wearing bobbi socks, even though she’s too damn old.”
And if someone like Steve Harvey – the loving husband, father, philanthropist, the church goer – can make fun of individuals with special needs, it throws the door wide open for anyone else to do the same.
I love to laugh. Sometimes I need to laugh. I look for the humor in our day-to-day because it’s the laughter that gets me through the worry. And Steve Harvey is capable of making so many laugh. But like that mom said – this is my life.
Living with special needs is our life, and the lives of so many families. We are real.