All too often, social media brings out the very worst in us. And disabled activist and speaker Lizzie Velasquez is fighting back.
Recently a woman used a picture of Velasquez—whose facial appearance is affected by her disability—for a prank to scare her son, telling him it was his new teacher—an obviously ableist joke that uses Velasquez’s disability in a mocking way.
So, Velasquez took to TikTok and Twitter and put her motivational speaking skills to use in order to tell parents exactly how this kind of ableism affects her and other disabled people and why it needs to stop.
— Lizzie Velasquez (@littlelizziev) August 9, 2020
The video that used Velasquez’s photo is part of a new trend on TikTok.
The so-called “FaceTime prank” involves people using strange, frightening or funny photos on their phone screens and then telling someone else the photo is somebody who wants to speak to them on FaceTime.
Users then post the surprised reaction of the other participant.
Velasquez has a very rare congenital condition called Marfanoid–progeroid–lipodystrophy which, among other symptoms, causes people to not retain body fat, especially in the face. This results in a prematurely aged look.
In her video, Velasquez pleaded with people—especially parents—to stop the prank.
“If you are an adult who has a young human in his life, please do not teach them that being scared of someone who doesn’t look like them is ok.”
“Everything that these kids need to know about having empathy and being kind to one another starts at home. This is not ok.”
“This is a trend that needs to stop. We are human and we have feelings. Please keep that in mind.”
On Twitter, many people were angry about the prank—and emphatically on Velasquez’s side.
I really hope this video of yours reaches that particular mother and that she understands just jow harmful her behavior is both for her son and you.
— Jake Boncutiu (@therecordmaka) August 9, 2020
It breaks my heart that she had to plead for basic human decency hayst https://t.co/MuRHitcLXQ
— joum (@joummlnsn) August 10, 2020
It’s really shameful that grown ppl still believe mocking someone’s appearance is funny or rewarding somehow, they r raising bullies and it’s not ok. Lizzie u’re a beautiful, brave woman and I appreciate the light ur teachings about empathy and kindness brought into my life. 🙏🏻💕
— Yelu C. (@Bluelliance) August 9, 2020
I honestly didnt like this trend nor did I find it funny because it’s mean
— Tina Turtle🇭🇹 (@tinaqueen_15) August 10, 2020
The fact that she has to beg for basic human decency. I'm ready to throw hands fr
— Deyö (@m_dolllar) August 9, 2020
Pranking culture needs to stop if it breaks the basic boundaries of human decency. No one should be judged because of his/her physical appearance. https://t.co/7iJoZaDuqe
— marko (@markocornelius1) August 9, 2020
People can be so horrible. And the way you came at this all calm, collected, and polite…WOW. I'm not sure many people would be able to remain that classy. ❤ pic.twitter.com/m7PVFTTMC3
— River J. H🌕pkins (@Cyborg_Writer) August 9, 2020
Lizzie is such a beautiful person. I adore her. https://t.co/jXTuU8Z2Aq
— David Berger 🏳️🌈 – #BlackLivesMatter (@MrDBerger) August 10, 2020
You’re as beautiful as your heart, Thank you for this, very well said. I hope this kind of challenge will stop…
— BABAH (@ustadchen) August 9, 2020
thank you for sharing this. this is exactly how ableism, racism, a s sexism continues to thrive because of the behaviors that continue to be encouraged by adults in raising their children.
— peach (@mspeacherino) August 10, 2020
Let this serve as a reminder to all of us to think about who is the butt of the jokes we make on social media.