The Shame of The Innocent: Kenneth Cole’s Billboard, Mental Illness and the Power of The Media

Recently a billboard was erected by Kenneth Cole, with the following statement.

“Over 40M Americans suffer from mental illness. Some can access care… All can access guns.” The message includes two hashtags: #GunReform and #AreYouPuttingUsOn.

Kenneth cole was attempting to speak on the issue of Gun Control, unfortunately his Billboard contains a potentially very harmful message and that is the correlation between the mentally ill and gun violence.

To be honest I was unaware of what had been posted on the billboard, until I came across a recent biog post at we have apples. As soon as I became aware of what had happened, I was compelled to respond and so i left this piece of commentary.

“You Look Like Chocolate Milk. Your hair looks like Barbed wire. Why is your skin so dirty?” when I was in grade school, I heard these comments almost every day. What they were really telling me, was that because of my skin colour, I did not deserve to be treated as a human being and that my skin was something to be ashamed of. Words have immense power and when we take a blanket statement about gun control and associate mental illness with the image of a gun wielding psychopath. We institute of a from of social slavery, Where essentially we are telling those who are sick, that they do not belong in society, that they belong in the mad house, that they are less than human. We are telling them that they are not part of God’s creation, they are a mistake, that God forgot to erase.

You know back in the day, There were “scientific studies” done by those who were in power, to validate the claims that people of colour, were not human, did not possess a soul and could therefore be bought and sold as property. That somehow their darker skin, was a curse and they needed to be punished. it was this propaganda that allowed the institution of slavery to remain in tact for more than 400 years. This was literally the message that taught to public, through the churches, the judicial system, the education system, the medical community and every facet of american culture. It was this blatant ignorance that allowed for the commercialization of human beings. and it is this same sentiment that echos so strongly to me through this billboard.

The Mentally Ill are not words on a chalk board, they are not faceless nameless pieces of paint. They are people, with stories and hopes, dreams and lives that are beyond extraordinary. They are the people who have contributed so much to making our society great. They are the true hero’s in my eyes. And to see someone take their struggle, their pain and simply make a mockery of it ,it is not just ignorant, it is the highest form of cruelty. Regardless, we are stronger than any billboard.”

There is no doubt in my mind, that there should be some sort of Gun reform. There are too many people dying at the hands of those, who are simply negligent with the weapon but most of the people that own these guns are not “mentally Ill individuals”, mostly just the average every day person ( And that is not say that people with mental illness are not average or normal) . Gun owners do not have one particular identity. You cannot even tell someone owns a gun, unless they actually tell you. Kenneth Cole’s assumption that it is the mentally ill who have these weapons, is simply that, an assumption, not based on reality but rather false media propaganda. It is so easy to blame the innocent for the crimes of a nation, because it shifts the responsibility away from those who have the power to institute change. It takes a very real situation that the government should be working to change and puts it on the people and that is so incredibly wrong.

Look at Adam Lanza, the man who was deemed mentally unstable, who took a weapon and shot several children in broad daylight. Yes He had a Gun but do you realize that it was his mother, who actually supplied him with money to buy it? His mother was a gun enthusiast, who enabled her son to have a gun in his possession. Still the media will not tell you this. I am not saying that we should blame his mother, for the problems that he had but it is a real issue when they will tell you half of the story and not the entire ordeal in it’s entirety.

Here is what I wrote in a previous biog entry about the power of the media and I believe that this is the real issue.

“The issues that we argue about, the media reports we hear, do little to educate us about what is actually going on the world, but rather they have kept us so misinformed and disengaged from reality, that we cannot even see as a society, we are simply walking around with blinders on. In our conquest to ascertain knowledge, we have lost our ability to distinguish the truth from the lie, We receive information and automatically accept it as truth, we do not consider the intention behind why this information is being fed to us,”

So Now that we understand, what can we do?

For those of us who know the difficulty and struggle of Mental Illness, either through personal experience or just having people in our lives who have struggled with this. We can do something, We can make a difference.

It all starts with Knowledge. You know the truth, You know that you are not dangerous or a criminal. You know that you are just a wonderful human being, who has had to struggle and it is you who can change the perception of people with Mental Illness ,by speaking out against the billboard and other stigmatizing forms of degradation. Send a letter to those in power and tell them, that you will not stand for something that dehumanizes your struggle but you would gladly give suggestions about how they can improve access to medical services for those who are struggling. You can write something, sculpt something, create an artistic piece that reflects your struggle. you can start an organization dedicated to helping people with mental illness. You can teach your children, to respect every single human being and therefore influence the next generation to be even better than we are.  You can hand out pamphlets on the street with information about mental illness. It is all about knowledge and power. When you take your truth and share it with the world, it is amazing how a system can change. There are so many examples throughout history of brave men and woman who changed the world, just by one action. Knowledge is indeed power and when we stand for what we believe with firm conviction anything is possible.

Melodic Rose

For anyone who would like to read the original Blog Post at We have apples, Here is the link.

PEOPLE WITH MENTAL ILLNESS: I’M SO SORRY ABOUT KENNETH COLE’S BILLBOARD

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4 thoughts on “The Shame of The Innocent: Kenneth Cole’s Billboard, Mental Illness and the Power of The Media

  1. As I said before… I am ashamed that lots of people living in the twenty-first century will believe this statement. It is really sad that we have to live in a society that works like that. Let’s just not talk about things. Let’s just make unfair statements about them. Truly sad.

    1. It really is sad and it makes my heart hurt, just thinking about all of the people who already have enough to deal with, without being publicly shamed on such a national front. Unfortunately we live in a society that doesn’t value our differences. We create boxes for people and tell them to live within it’s confines. We don’t understand that the box is such a narrow scope of the world and how much we miss out, when we relegate our entire existence to only what we can see in between the four walls. There’s a huge world out there, with room enough for everybody. Not just for those who are “Normal” or “beautiful” or have “socially acceptable intelligence.” If being socially acceptable, means that I treat other people with disrespect and a lack of compassion. then I will pass lol Thanks for commenting! 🙂

      1. Being different equals being shamed. If you happen to be different most people will try to mock, ridicule you, crush your dreams and aspirations. Makes me downright sick.

      2. I know the feeling. I think there will always be cruel people in the world, we cannot change that fact. What we can change is whether or not we allow those people to define us. If someone does not value us, then ultimately it is their loss. Our visions, our dreams, our goals, they belong to us and no one can take it from us because at the end of the day, it is our dreams that will take us, just where we are supposed to be. Those who do not want to support our journey, will just miss out in the end. 🙂

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