Disability Activist Lizzie Velasquez Requests Parents To Teach Their Kids To Be Empathetic After A Mom Used Her Photo To Scare Her Kid For A TikTok Challenge
Social media is many things. It can be a powerful platform to voice your opinion, get your daily dose of positive vibes and keep up with what’s happening in the world with just a touch on your screen. Also, it’s a great tool to connect with people and find a sense of belonging. Basically, it’s extremely important in today’s time and has become a part of our lives. But just as there are two sides to a coin, social media platforms also have a darker, dingier side where instead of positivity, you get offensive and disrespectful content that makes you shake your head in disappointment.
You might know about TikTok’s Face Prank Challenge. If you haven’t used it, good for you. Give yourself a pat on the back. Why am I saying this? Because it is nothing but a cruel challenge that uses the face of Lizzie Velasquez, a disability activist who was born with Marfanoid–progeroid–lipodystrophy syndrome and thus has distinct facial features. It is deeply insensitive and offensive as it mocks people who look different. What’s worse is that TikTok users actually take up this ridiculous challenge to scare people and post a video of their reaction, for laughs.
Recently, a mom took this challenge to scare her kid and posted it on her social media account. Lizzie Velasquez, a motivational speaker and anti-bullying campaigner fighting this very issue of ill-treatment and raising awareness for years, came across the offensive video and condemned the challenge. She also pleaded parents to be considerate of people who look differently and teach their kids to be sensitive towards them. She posted a video in which she calmly addresses the issue and says how hurtful it can be for people with such disability to be mocked like this on social media. Watch the video here.
— Lizzie Velasquez (@littlelizziev) August 9, 2020
In the video, Lizzie explains how parents can set a good example for their kids to be more kind to people who do not look like them. She says, “If you are an adult who has a young human in your life, please do not teach them that being scared of someone who does not look like them is okay. Everything that these kids need to know about having empathy and being kind to one another starts at home.” It’s sad that she has to spell it out for the parents. A kid should not be raised believing that they should look a certain way and anyone looking any different is scary or, worse, funny. It’s parents’ duty to inculcate these values in their child so they are accepting and considerate of people with medical conditions like autism and Down’s syndrome.
The Tweeple came out in support of Lizzie, saying that parents should be more responsible and teach their kids empathy. A Twitter user wrote, “Empathy, acceptance, & kindness starts at home.” Another pointed out how this behaviour only perpetuates insecurities later in adulthood. “When you teach your children to laugh at or be disgusted by those who look different you’re directly fuelling them to be self conscious and hate what makes themselves look different,” they said. One user shared how their mother taught them to be kind, “Mum always taught me to be kind and thoughtful of others. Different people have a different standpoint but I believe one kind word can warm three winter months.”
Please listen to her!! As someone who is missing their left hand and has been stared and talked about behind my back I know what it feels like. No one should ever look at someone and be terrified of them without even knowing who they are! https://t.co/8KoSXMZ2iS
— Brynn (@brynn_ure02) August 10, 2020
If you think about it, it is already difficult for people who look different to be accepted and loved the way they are. They get weird stares, nasty remarks and bad treatment from children and adults alike whenever they step out. We live in a society where parents are laughing off and scaring their kids with the photos of people who look different rather than teaching them to respect and love them. Kids should be taught to smile at them and introduce themselves to make them feel comfortable. Instead, they are taught to make fun of them and be disgusted by them.
Just a few months back, there was the #AutismChallenge that surfaced on TikTok, which saw people imitate how a person with autism would dance, making similar facial expressions and hand movements that they do to express themselves. Is it funny to imitate someone who’s suffering from a developmental disorder? No, it is highly insensitive and disrespectful.
The least we can do is make social media a safe space free of hatred and bullying. It can be the perfect space for spewing hatred and mocking people anonymously and these challenges just fuel online harassment of people with disabilities. Furthermore, parents should teach their kids to respect everyone regardless of their appearance and be more empathetic toward those different than them. Because as Lizzie said, they are also humans and they have feelings.