The work we’ve done together to create All the Weight of Our Dreams is awesome — and there are folks out there who agree with us!
(The below are clips from their original articles. Click the titles to read the whole thing!)
29 March 2016
EB: Fighting against the monolithic ideal of autism is not just about the spectrum and age, but also about race, class, gender, and sexuality. How different are autism stories at the intersections of other marginalized identities?
SS: That’s a very good question, but as a white, neurotypical, cisgender male, I’m not the best person to answer it. I’d like to refer your readers to a superb anthology coming out in April called All the Weight of Our Dreams (through the combined efforts of Lydia X.Z. Brown, Senior Editor; E. Ashkenazy, Project Manager and Editor; and Morénike Giwa Onaiwu, Assistant Project Manager and Editor), about the intersections between autism and race. The authors talk about the complex pain of feeling excluded for being autistic from the same communities where they find support for being people of color. I hope this book finds a wide audience.
Recently, I was on a plane talking to a young black woman who worked in D.C. When I told her that I’d written a book about autism, she said, “Autism is a white-people thing, isn’t it?” I told her that there was a long history of minority communities not having access to the kinds of services that provide a diagnosis. I’ve heard those kinds of statements before. In a way, they’re an echo of the time when Kanner considered autism a psychological issue that disproportionately affected upper-middle-class families, rather than a developmental disability.
In All the Weight of Our Dreams, E. Ashkenazy writes, “Let’s say that an autistic person of color is being raised in a community and culture that generally tends to view disability as a weakness and embarrassment. This situation is very different from that of an autistic person growing up in a community where seeking a diagnosis and related services are viewed as necessary and proactive. Let’s say than another autistic person of color is a part of a culture that upholds strict expectations of how community members should behave both at home and in the community. This person will likely face more than just autism-related challenges. They might be expected to interpret, understand, and adhere to community roles and expectations that are usually subliminally picked up on in infancy and childhood. This situation can prove difficult for a number of autistic persons regardless of race or ethnicity.”
14 February 2015
The newest project comes from the Committee on Autism & Ethnicity as a way to highlight how the lives of individuals in multiple marginalized populations are affected on a daily basis.
The Autism and Race Anthology will be a collection of writings by autistic people of color. These writings will include personal experiences, ideas, hopes and other stories in their own words. With no formal structure of submissions, writings vary from prose to poetry depending on how people want their words to be heard. There has yet to be an anthology of this nature and this self-published work from the Autism Women’s Network hopes to start the conversation of how race impacts the lives of autistic individuals.
The editor of the project is Lydia Brown, also known as Autistic Hoya. Lydia is a well known activist and writer who focuses on looking at violence against multiply-marginalized disabled people. Other notable experience includes working with the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, active president of the Washington Metro Disabled Students Collective, and receiving an honor by the White House as a Champion of Change for disability rights. In addition to all the advocacy work, Lydia also is currently a student at Georgetown University.
Lydia notes the main leaders in the autistic rights and neurodiversity movement as well as those most well known for being autistic are all white. This unfortunately creates more of a stereotype of what autism is supposed to look like and does not take into account the myriad of ways race affects an individual. From diagnosis to supports available to how individuals are perceived by law enforcement, race does have an impact. Yet this topics has not been discussed by professionals in the field or explored in depth by researchers or organizations.
Corina Lynn Becker
12 September 2014
But AWN is working to publish an anthology on Autism and Race, and is looking for submissions, due November 14, 2014. If you are autistic, and a person of colour, racialized, or non-white, I encourage you to look at the AWN submission guide and consider submitting something.
This is a project lead by Lydia Brown, aka Autistic Hoya, who I don’t know about you, but is one of the people I’d immediately ask “how much do you want me to write, and when do you want it?” if not go scrambling to look for something I’ve already written.
But this is your choice. I understand either way.
What matters is you expressing yourself, your story, what you want to say about yourself as an autistic person and your life, what you want to tell other people, what you want to change about the world. This is about you communicating and gaining power through that, about providing an outlet, a starting point.
ASDay has been described as a blogging carnival, a festival of our “voices”, our passions and dreams. It is a celebration of who we are, a memorial of our scars, a scream of our struggles, a rallying cry to continue on for our rights. Because of the most powerful words “I am not alone”.
Intersectionality is how different aspects of our identities affect our experiences, sometimes in different ways in different situations. Like being a woman can be a privilege in one situation, or be a barrier in another, or being a person of colour, or being disabled, rich or poor, and so on.
The anthology matters because for too long has books and Autism materials about us been dominated by parents, professionals, and white people who do not represent all experiences of autistic people. I see it every time I walk into an Autism conference center and look at the book displays. How can we be “Nothing About Us, Without Us” without all of us being published, without all of us being represented?
It cannot happen.
Not without projects like the Autism and Race anthology.
8 September 2014
There is a quite a bit more understanding of autism in 2014 than there was in the ’80’s when I was a child. However, one thing that hasn’t changed much is that neither the public “face” not “voice” of autism is reflective of the diversity of Autistic people, whom do not all have the same skin tone as Temple Grandin or the child actor from “Parenthood.” Autistics of all hues are working to increase the solidarity of various groups within our community and to amplify the voices of those of us who are less represented, so things are gradually improving. But change takes time. In the large, multicultural city where I live, I can still easily pick my two Autistic children out in a crowd when we attend local autism events; clearly there’s still much more to be done.
Fortunately, an exciting Autism Women’s Network (AWN) project is underway that will highlight the voices of Autistic people of color. Edited by another AWN board member, Lydia Brown (a talented Autistic writer and blogger), the project – an Autism and Race Anthology – will fill a much-needed void and will help to make the discourse surrounding autism more inclusive of racialized individuals. I cannot emphasize enough how significant this project is.
Kassiane A. Sibley
6 September 2014
Knowing people who can relate to my Autistic brain: great and validating. Knowing people who can relate to being racialized: validating. Knowing people who grok being Autistic and dealing with racial issues? Priceless.
I want the next generation of Autistic kids who go looking in the library for stories they relate to to be able to find more than the autiebiographies and the doom and gloom books. I want them to see that, contrary to what the media will tell you, autism is not a neurology reserved for upper middle class white boys. They are not alone, even if they’re the only child of color in their class. I want their parents to feel less isolated, by reading things by people who have been where their child is. I want their professionals to have a resource for how things interact, how the autistic experience is different across cultures. I want something to touch that shows our diversity and our shared experiences.
Do you want that too?