In June 2017, the Autistic Women and Nonbinary Network partnered with Lydia X. Z. Brown and published All the Weight of Our Dreams: On Living Racialized Autism, intended to be the first anthology of art and writing entirely by negatively racialized autistic people.
11 March 2021
Dear friends and community members,
We write with regret to share the sad news that we have discontinued publication indefinitely of All the Weight of Our Dreams: On Living Racialized Autism.
Over the last several years, we have realized that we made several grave errors in publication. In our attempt to publish as widely and broadly as possible, represent as many different perspectives of autistic people of color as possible, and avoid ableist, racist, and classist editing practices, we made some incredibly harmful choices.
We published a few people who are white Ashkenazi Jews, and not Jews of color or otherwise people of color at all. (In keeping with our commitment to transformative justice and abolitionist principles of non-carceral approaches to accountability, we are not sharing these contributors’ names in this statement.) We didn’t intend any of these outcomes as we didn’t know better at the time, but we recognize that we missed opportunities to prevent the harms caused. We do know that our ignorance is not an excuse, and we take responsibility for that ignorance and for our harmful publication choices.
We also published at least one piece that includes harmful content. Specifically, the author (E. Ashkenazy, who is one of the collaborators on this letter) included language that supported harmful notions of blood quantum and Native/Indigenous tribal affiliation, and came across as minimizing or dismissing Black identity and objectifying identities that she does not have because she didn’t include clear context. This piece also mentioned anti-Black police violence in a way that came across as casual because we did not engage editors or reviewers who could have prevented that – a problem that undoubtedly affected other pieces as well.
We know that Black communities, Native/Indigenous communities, biracial and multiracial communities, and Jewish communities of color face specific forms of racism and impacts of white supremacy. We know that discontinuing publication does not erase the harm we have already caused to people from these and other communities who have read and been hurt by the content published. Nevertheless, we feel that the only responsible course of action is to remove the book from sales to keep the harmful content from circulating further. In the spirit of full disclosure, each original contributor received payment for their contributions (including those whose work was reprinted), as did each co-editor. No contributor, co-editor, or AWN employee has received any payment since publication of the book, as proceeds from sales have always gone to the Autistic People of Color Fund.
All of the original editors have discussed what has happened as well as this accountability process. We currently plan to take a break before announcing a formal plan to continue with publication of a second, revised edition of the anthology that will both address the harm caused in the original edition and provide an important, necessary resource for autistic people of color. Specifically, we plan to do the following:
- The new edition will include new curated material, especially from Black people, Native/Indigenous people, biracial and multiracial people (especially mixed-race people without white parentage), Jewish people of color, and negatively racialized people/people of color living and working in the Global South (as the first edition featured contributors almost entirely from the Global North). We will pay each person whose material is published for the right to publish it, and they will keep the copyright to their own work.
- The second, revised edition will include some material from the original anthology, but not all of it. Original contributors signed an agreement giving us the legal right to republish their work in any future edition, but we will seek explicit consent from all people whose work we wish to republish, and will not republish any material for which we cannot obtain that explicit consent. We will pay each person whose material is republished for the right to publish it, and they will keep the copyright to their own work.
- The new edition will have new co-editors. Lydia will remain part of the project in an editorial assistance role, but will no longer be the lead editor or a co-editor. We are currently approaching potential new co-editors about both this process and the new edition.
- The new edition will include a new foreword or preface that contextualizes its publication, as well as describes the specific actions we have taken to address harms caused in the first edition.
- We will specifically request and pay for racial justice-oriented review (commonly called sensitivity reading) and developmental editing from members of negatively racialized communities that the co-editorship does not represent. We will engage professionals who understand communication and language disabilities, and are committed to disability justice and racial justice, to undertake the review and editing process. We do not expect this review to prevent all possible problems, but we hope that this process will help prevent us from causing the same scale and depth of harm again.
- Finally, we will donate the same amount of funds that were paid to the white Ashkenazi Jewish people whose work was published to organizations led by and supporting Jewish BIPOC. We will also make a donation matching the amount of a contributor honoraria to an organization led by and supporting Black/African-Indian freedmen and their descendants.
We unfortunately cannot promise a specific timeline on when the second, revised edition will be published. Everyone who has worked on this project in the past is multiply disabled and multiply neurodivergent, with many of our lives directly impacted by financial or housing insecurity, job precarity, disasters, the COVID-19 pandemic, and personal and community crisis and trauma. Because of this, we know that our capacity to work and move at a specific, fast, or consistent pace is often limited and frequently in flux. The pace that we feel we can work at today might not be the pace we can actually work at by the end of the year. We are aiming to have the second, revised edition completed and published by the end of 2023, but we know that the project may take longer than that to complete. Thus, in lieu of giving a specific timeline, we will commit to providing updates about the project via our website and social media as they are available.
We are all constantly learning and growing, and we know this will likely not be the last time that we cause harm. But we are committed to consistent work to unlearn our own internalized and lateral racism, and complicity in white supremacy and settler colonialism, even as people of color ourselves, because clearly our own experiences of/with racial marginalization do not mean we are incapable of perpetuating racist harm ourselves. The fact that we all have capacity to harm is not an excuse to do so, but a sobering and grounding reality that requires us to do the necessary work to minimize our capacity to harm. We invite you, if you so choose, to join and support us on this journey of (un)learning, growth, and change. We also recognize that it is our responsibility to work to earn back trust in the communities both that we come from and that we hope to be in solidarity with, and that you may very well choose not to extend trust again. It is our hope that our future work will better reflect our commitments to anti-racism, intersectionality, and centering the most marginalized, and will provide solace, recognition, and care for many more autistic people of color just as we intended in the first edition of the anthology.
In community and solidarity,
Lydia X. Z. Brown, Senior Editor for All the Weight of Our Dreams
E. Ashkenazy, Project Manager & Editor for All the Weight of Our Dreams
Morénike Giwa Onaiwu, Assistant Project Manager & Editor for All the Weight of Our Dreams
Sharon daVanport, Founding Executive Director, Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network