West of Acceptable: Why Kanye West’s Comments Regarding Autism are Harmful to the Autistic Community

In a recent interview with the celebrity gossip outlet X17, controversial rapper Kanye West AKA Ye, regarding recent controversial statements on outlets such as Twitter and Infowars, claimed that “I am not bipolar. I’m not in some kind of episode, but I may be slightly autistic. Like Rain Man. And that’s part of my superpower. It’s the reason why I can produce tracks and design and do so many things.” He then went on to say that “There’s two things that I can’t do: I can’t accept hate and I can’t hate. Have you ever known an autistic person that hates? That’s the reason.” To say that these comments are grossly out of line is frankly an understatement. I, as an autistic individual, believe that what Kanye has said here is perhaps the grossest regurgitation of autistic stereotypes that has been seen since the release of Sia’s woefully under researched and misrepresentative movie Music in 2021.

For those not in the know, there is a particular set of stereotypes associated with autistic individuals and communities that they are all “savants”, i.e individuals capable of some extremely specific talent, and that this talent is somehow a “superpower”. This characterization of autistic people is at best demeaning and at worst actively dehumanizing, separating them as a persistent “other”, separate from “normal” people and not being worthy of being treated as such outside of our supposed talent. It should frankly go without saying that not all autistic people are savants, that many of us are of average capabilities and talents just like everyone else. While some of them may be “savants” or possess extreme talents in certain areas, this is not the norm, but rather the exception. Regarding his comments about being unable to accept hate and being unable to hate, ignoring the woefully antisemitic comments he has made over the past few weeks, this is yet another gross misrepresentation of autistic individuals. Autistic people are more than capable of expressing emotions such as hate, love, joy, sorrow, and everything in between. While such emotions may be expressed in unusual ways, whether “too much” or “too little” or manifesting in unusual expressions, these are still felt nevertheless, and to say otherwise is again a gross misrepresentation of an entire community and an attempt to dehumanize us, whether intentionally or not.

It is not my place nor anyone else’s place to say whether or not Kanye West is autistic or the true purpose of his statements, but regardless, his comments show a blatant disregard for the feelings and realities of autistic people and autistic communities, and such comments deserve to be met with not only scorn, but also attempts by autistic communities and neurotypicals alike to spread truth regarding autism and counter the potential hate and misunderstanding that could arise from such blatant abuse of his platform.