Thursday, November 1, 2018

#AutisticsSpeakingDay2018 Post: A Call to Intertwine Race into the Autistic Community

Timotheus "T.J." Gordon, Jr., #AutisticsSpeakingDay2018 Post: A Call to Intertwine Race into the Autistic Community on The Black Autist

#AutisticsSpeakingDay2018 Post: A Call to Intertwine Race into the Autistic Community

Happy Autistic Speaking Day everyone! 

If we ever going to have an inclusive and vibrant autistic culture, then we must accept and recognize the diversity within the global autistic community. Autistic everywhere must understand that only the autistic experience varies from person to person. The autistic people themselves don’t all fit the mold of Sheldon Cooper or Raymond Babbitt; they have diverse backgrounds. 
Yes, there are people of color in the autistic union! Admit it. Accept it. Embrace it even. Our community can’t no longer ignore autistic people of color just because they look different or may not share STEM interests. 

I’m seeing more autistic people of color share their stories and paint a portrait of a spectrum of experiences within the autistic community. I appreciate them redefining to mainstream folks how autism manifests in daily life; they are chiseling away the single narrative of what it’s like to be autistic by adding intersecting/interlocking identities into the narratives. Personally, it’s been a privileged working with my autistic people of color in promoting autistic acceptance in communities of color and expanding narratives of autistic people beyond the typical ones from white autistics. 

Yet, there are still some autistic people in social media who are expressing the call to end slipping intersectionality into autistic culture. From what I got from social media responses, some may not understand or want to recognize how race and autism are tied together, or why people bring up race and autism in the first place. Perhaps they might want an autistic community where every autistic are bound to a specific set to cultural norms and expectations, including subjects that are highly interesting to them (stereo-typically, it’s STEM fields or recalling facts). 

In fact, there have been people expressing desires for the autistic community to be defined as a race of people or an ethnic minority; they use those terms to describe how we have been marginalized by an ableist, capitalist society. They also illustrated how autistic people are bound by shared characteristics and interests, such as stimming and special interests related to geekery. 
I concede that autistic people are marginalized people based on discrimination and harassment we face at home, school, institutions, workplace, and leisure spaces. We are marginalized based on limited access to explore healthy sexualities, viable job and career options of our own choosing, autistic-friendly housing, starting families, and overall health care. 
However, autistic people are not a race or ethnic minority. In order to be an ethnic group or race, the people must share similar customs and beliefs, geographical areas, and have similar physical traits. 

For those who want autistic to be a race or ethnic minority…most of the people who are wishing for it have been identified as white. So if I translate this correctly, their perfect autistic community consists of white autistic people. But, I thought autism doesn’t discriminate based on race and ethnicity, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, etc. If you want an united autistic people community, then recognize that people of color, like myself, can also be autistic; enough with the erasure of autistic people of color in the mainstream autistic community. 

Also, we are all over the world’ we don’t originate in one particular place or “motherland”. 

Last, a race or an ethnicity is defined by similarities in belief systems, culture, food, clothing, etc. Just as the physical representation of autistic people is diverse, the cultural aspect of the autistic community is vast and variable as well. From what I’ve seen and what I’ve read in social media, the autistic culture within our community is formulated through what supporters of the autistic race think what the autistic community should be. And it’s often the white cis-male perspective of the autistic community that is promoted more regularly. The STEM interests, the trains, the D&D. Which I do like, don’t get me wrong. But there are autistic people (especially some autistic people of color) who have special interests and intense fandom beyond the conventional geek world. Some may be more into sports, dance, fashion, cooking, kinky stuff, etc. 

In short, if we, autistic people, continue to uphold a narrow view of what the autistic experience look like and not allow for inclusion and diversity in the autistic community, then the autistic community will continue to be labeled “too white” (and I dare to even say “too cis-male and scientific”). For starters, it would be lovely if we include more discussions of race and autism into our community and encourage more autistic people of color to build their own safe spaces and/or be welcomed into mainstream autistic community. Autistic folks, myself included, must expand beyond the Sheldon Cooper or Temple Grandin stereotype. 

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