Dear Young Black Autistics,
Hey, friends. I’m a mixed-race Black and Indigenous young adult. I write to you today as someone who was recently your age, and perhaps dealing with struggles not unlike your own. You may notice that you are different from others in how you think, how you see things, and perhaps how you move, too.
Racism and Ableism Colors All Our Relationships
Our parents have more stress about autism because they already worry about us being killed by police or accused of a crime or being the victim of hate crimes and institutional abuse. We know how dangerous it can be to be ourselves, so we always have to play it small and occupy the background in some spaces just to be safe.
For this reason, our parents can be extra tough on us. They feel powerless against racism and ableism, and they think if we can’t hide being Autistic, we are at risk.
Masking and Code Switching
The thing is, we really can’t always hide being autistic. That’s called masking. We can’t always be flexible enough to be Black enough in Black spaces, Indigenous enough in Native spaces, or neurotypical enough in any space.
Being mixed race means having to code switch in even more cultural contexts, but being Autistic means not being the “norm” in any other space.
Fiction is The Safest Place to Normalize Black and Indigenous Autistics
It is hard not seeing people who are like us on TV. It can make you feel lonely. It reminds you that you’re not really seen in the world, that you’re not even a valued enough member in the social hierarchy to be used as a prop or a product or a token.
There is not even bad representation of Black or Indigenous Autistic people. There’s none.
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