The Light It Up Blue campaign takes place during Autism Awareness Month in April, year after year without fail. With it, along come the damaging campaigns that hide behind autism to drive their own, less-than-admirable motives. You might not have heard of it before, or the negative connotations behind it, so let me get you up to date.
Where Did The Light It Up Blue Campaign Originate?
Light It Up Blue was a campaign created by Autism Speaks to run alongside Autism Awareness Month throughout April. It’s something many companies have jumped on in the past without knowing the harm it does to autistic people, so you’re not alone in your confusion about the intentions of my blog post.
Trust me, I’m not just trying to shut down a campaign because I don’t agree with it. That’s not what I’m about. The issue we need to focus on here is that the charity behind Light It Up Blue, autism speaks, is actively dangerous for the autism community. In an age where we’re pushing ahead with embracing neurodiversity, Autism Speaks seems determined to hold us back.
But why shouldn’t we support a campaign that aims to raise awareness and understanding of autism? Isn’t that what you advocate for?
They Want To Find a Cure
It isn’t much of a secret that Autism Speaks’ main aim is to cure autism for good, forever. The message on the website isn’t as obvious as it still was, but you still don’t have to look far to find it. Read between the lines for a minute and it’s obvious that the site is not one that looks fondly towards autistic people and their families.
Is a charity supporting the eugenics of disabled people really what we should be supporting during a month meant to raise awareness?
Very Little Funding Goes Towards Improving The Lives Of Autistic People & Their Families
You might think you’re doing a good deed by donating towards this campaign on a yearly basis, but think again. Less than four percent of funding goes towards supporting autistic people and their families. No, you didn’t read that wrong; their budget really is a measly ~4%. Both fundraising and research take up more of the budget than this, despite the negative connotations their research studies have earned in the past.
Although the charity behind this campaign is said to be non-profit, it doesn’t mean that they are fair with where their funding goes. I mean, what director of a charity needs an average salary of $90,089 a year? When you consider that there are six directors alone, you can see that a large proportion of the money is going towards those who work there themselves.
We Are NOT Puzzle Pieces
Alongside the blue light bulb, the blue puzzle piece is another popular symbol shared on social media during this time. Please stop. The idea that autistic people are missing something is outdated, inaccurate and, frankly, quite offensive. Autistic people have brains that formed differently, but just the way they were supposed to. We have everything we need up in our brains, just like, I’m sure, you do. If you want to find out more about what autism actually is, I wrote a post perfect for you to read!
The Only Autistic Person Ever Employed By The Charity Behind This Campaign Resigned Quickly
For a long time, Autism Speaks didn’t have a single autistic person on their board. This is the board that made decisions about the allocation of funds, fundraising, and awareness campaigns.
However, after backlash, they did employ one autistic member: a man called John Elder Robison. He soon resigned because he felt the charity had “delivered little value to autistic people, [when compared with] the many millions raised”.
Don’t Worry If You Didn’t Know About The Negatives Of This Campaign
Although awareness into the dark side of the Light It Up Blue campaign has increased in recent years, there are still so many people who haven’t a clue. I’m sure if you were to ask your friends, a family member, or an acquaintance if they knew it was bad, they’d have no clue. I’d really appreciate it if you took a moment to share this post with them, and anyone else you think it might benefit.
However, it isn’t just your average Joe who is confused over the true intentions of this campaign. In 2017, the London Eye had no idea about the controversy, and planned to light the wheel up blue to celebrate World Autism Day on April 2nd. After complaints made on social media by people from the community and our advocates on social media, they announced that they were going to light it up pink instead. This is to coincide with one of the colours of The National Autistic Society, who helped London Eye executives make their final decision.
Lindt, the chocolate company we all know and love, also announced they were cutting ties with the campaign in 2017. This is another example of why you shouldn’t underestimate the neurodiversity movement, as it was threats to boycott from these people that inspired them to make the change.
But Wait… Why Don’t I Know Anything About This?
You might not know anything about this campaign, or the dangers behind supporting it, because of where you live. People outside of the US are likely to have found out about it through the internet, and taken little time to look into the history of it. If it’s supported online then surely it’s a good thing, isn’t it? Not necessarily, apparently.
It was something I’ve definitely seen from friends and family in my own life. In previous years, many of my friends changed their profile pictures in support of the campaign, and it’s heartbreaking. Obviously I don’t want to intrude and police what people post on their own profiles, so I didn’t say anything, but I wish I had. There’s no harm in raising awareness when it’s for a good cause, is there? I hope this post somewhat makes up for what I was unable to say in person at the time.
Even if you do live in America, where the charity behind Light It Up Blue originates, you could still be nonetheless. This is because those who support the campaign don’t actively look for arguments against it, and those who run it aren’t exactly in a position to out themselves. It’s also tempting for people to shutdown the views of the neurodiversity movement, where we’re still talking out about it to this day.
But How Can We Support Autism Awareness/Accept Month in April?
Don’t think that just because the Light It Up Blue campaign is a bad thing that every charity out there is. Charities like The National Autistic Society are great at pioneering for the best support for autistic people and their families. The Autism Self-Advocacy Website is another good one if you don’t live in the UK.
There’s also another movement by the neurodiversity movement, specifically the autism community, that you should consider supporting. It’s something I found out about in 2017, and has continued to grow as time has gone on.
What is the campaign, you ask? #RedInstead.
Red Instead is a campaign created by autistic people to offer a more reliable, realistic view of the disability we experience on a day-to-day basis. It tries to drown out negative information spread by campaigns like the Light It Up Blue campaign by promoting love instead of fear.
Those behind this website also believe that this month should be called Autism Acceptance Month instead of Autism Awareness Month, because awareness alone isn’t enough. I wrote a whole post about my thoughts on this, if you’d like to have a read.
Much like people changing their Facebook profile pictures to support the Light It Up Blue Campaign in previous years, Red Instead also have their own border you can use. You can show your support for autistic people throughout the month of April with this snazzy border design by clicking here.
You can also follow the campaign on Twitter at @BeRedInstead. This is active during April, where you can find out what the community is talking about on a day-by-day basis. You could even join in the conversation by using the #RedInstead hashtag on both Twitter and Instagram.
I’m Only One Voice, But Together, We Can Make A Difference
In reality, I know my words are like a drop in the ocean in this conversation. By myself, I have very little influence over changes that are made to the way we celebrate autism in April. However, I also know that I am not alone.
I am part of a big collection of autistic people who are sick and tired of being ignored, spoken over and insulted, constantly. I’m part of a community of angry disabled people who’re sick of others saying eugenics and cure culture is okay, while ignoring how much it hurts and excludes those of us it actually affects. Some people find April so distressed that they actively avoid social media throughout this period. Is it really okay to exclude minorities like this?
I’d really appreciate it if you took a moment to think about what you’ve just read. Consider changing who you support this April so you are campaigning with autistic people, instead of against us. Why not share this post with your friends, or on social media websites? The more people who know the true horrors behind this campaign the better, in my opinion.
I know this is a long post, so if you’ve read this far, thank you so much.
Until the next advocacy post,
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