A disability activist recently lashed out on people for using her images to scare their children in a new TikTok challenge. The challenge called the New Teacher Challenge involves parents showing their children photographs of disabled people as their new teachers and record their reaction of being scared.
The activist, Melissa Blake, wrote that she was born with Freeman-Sheldon syndrome, a genetic bone and muscular disorder. Her condition, she says, has triggered an array of reactions from people. "Because I look different, people have called me everything from “disgusting” to “a blobfish” to saying that I should be banned from posting," Blake wrote in a blog.
During the last round of trollgate, people said that I should be banned from posting photos of myself because I’m too ugly. So I’d just like to commemorate the occasion with these 3 selfies... 📸😉👋🏻 pic.twitter.com/9ZuSYFOtwv— Melissa Blake (@melissablake) September 7, 2019
Blake, a disability activist, says as part of her job of being a freelance activist and being active on social media, she has seen people being mean towards her condition, but this new challenge on TikTok to scare kids with the images of disabled people was disturbing.
"It’s the latest viral trend in which parents show their children photos of disabled people, who they say is their child’s new teacher. The kids' reactions — typically frightened and embarrassed — is filmed, of course. And it’s all done for a laugh," she wrote.
"I’m not laughing, though, because none of this is funny. I’m utterly disgusted,"Blake wrote. Blake wrote about motivational speaker and author Lizzie Velasquez whose photo was being used by a woman who filmed her son’s terrified reaction. Velasquez took to Instagram to condemn the act and urged the parents to be more sensitive.
“If you are an adult who has a young human in your life, please do not teach them that being scared of someone who doesn't look like them is okay. Please. Everything that these kids need to know about empathy and being kind to one another starts at home,” the motivational speaker wrote in her post.
Stop making the #disabled a punchline. Stop teaching your kids it’s okay to do so. And if you want to follow someone who will educate you, follow @melissablake. She’s a wonderful person fighting an important battle. https://t.co/I0K3QdwsZA— Karen Maven ⛳️🚀 (@Ninjakar) August 27, 2020
Blake said the society thinks people who look different are seen as ugly and grotesque and the conditioning of this sort begins at young age. "Think about how many Disney villains have some sort of deformity," she wrote. She also lashed out at the parents filming their terrified and vulnerable kids. "Imagine your mom filming a vulnerable moment, one where you can't help but burst into tears, and they actually post it for the whole world to see. How is humiliating your child, or watching other children go through that, a source of amusement?,"she wrote.
Pointing out that one in four adults in US suffers disability, Blake said there is a need for disability representation. "We need to normalise seeing people who don’t look like us or our family members. We need to teach the next generation that our differences should be celebrated, not feared or mocked," she wrote.