A thing happened to the Autistic Community which led to a thing within the Autistic Community.
Here is the recap: NASA scientist Mark Rober released a video on his YouTube Channel, in which he revealed that his son is autistic. The mission of the video was simple: Mark was marketing a fundraiser called Color the Spectrum, meant to finance an organization called Next for Autism. The fundraiser is to occur tomorrow, with Jimmy Kimmel at the helm and many other A- and lesser list celebrities involved in the live stream telethon. Sounds wonderful, but it isn’t. It’s actually an affront to the Autistic Community because Next for Autism is associated with Autism Speaks, and both are organizations whose missions include the aims to normalize autistic behavior (force autistic people to suppress their traits) and find a “cure” for autism through genetic research, testing, and eventual pre-natal screening.
The Autistic Community does not support Autism Speaks. The Autistic Community does not support Next for Autism, and the Autistic Community does not want people donating money to this Color the Spectrum event.
In consequence, a group of my former TikTok peers collaborated to organize a counter stream, called Autistic Now. Several young adult autistics joined forces to prepare this new event, with the goal of raising funds to support the Autistic Community, as opposed to organizations who wish to eradicate our kind. Unfortunately, the group chose to raise funds for ASAN–the Autistic Self Advocacy Network–which has historically been preferred by the wider Autistic Community as an ethical alternative to Autism Speaks, as it is led and managed by Actually Autistic people. This was a misfortune because within the past month, it has come to light that ASAN published an eBook, which was plagiarized by an Indigenous Autistic advocate. This advocate is known as @autistictyping in online spaces. ASAN has denied their reprehensible actions, although it is obvious they are at fault.
It is due to the inherent racism embedded in our social structure that ASAN has not been formally held accountable for this injustice. It is due to racism that @autistictyping has been exploited without remorse.
In solidarity with @autistictyping many in the Autistic Community have been raising awareness and advising potential contributors to boycott not only the Color the Spectrum event, but also the Autistic Now event. In consequence, the young band of autistics have canceled the counter stream, and have made public statements of apology to the BBIMP (Black, Brown, Indigenous, Melanated People) community.
As to my own involvement and position in this collective trauma, I would like to provide an account.
I knew about the controversy with ASAN and @autistictyping and I even shared information about it on my Instagram Account when all was initially revealed. When my TikTok peers began promoting their event, I felt intuitively that it was unethical, and yet, because of my own bias, I shared their posts in my Instagram Stories.
Here is where I will reveal the pernicious nature of unconscious bias…
The thoughts which compelled me to share posts promoting the counter stream, against my intuition, were as follows: “Surely they know about ASAN, but they have chosen to move forward, so there must be information they have that I don’t and the issues must have been resolved,” and “There are people of color involved in the event; those creators likely would not be involved if ASAN has not been held accountable.”
I did no research. I blindly accepted these assumptions as facts.
Then, my dear friend Asiatu (@asiatucoach) began to share posts on Instagram advising followers to boycott the counter stream, to show solidarity with @autistictyping. I am grateful they did, for this held me accountable. I immediately shared their posts, and explained to my audience my own error, which was to share and promote the counter stream without investigation.
It was due to the inherent racism embedded in our social structure that the band of young autistics was willing to overlook the injustice done to @autistictyping with the aim of sacrificing one of their own to serve the “greater good” or fight the “greater evil.” It was due to my own unconscious racism that I did not question them until I, myself, was held to account.
It was by sharing the boycott information and raising awareness regarding the injustice done to @autistictyping that the online Autistic Community was able to intervene in the counter stream.
Currently, a lot of people are hurting. The wider Autistic Community is hurting because wealthy and powerful people continue to control the narrative over our lives and course of treatment. The BBIMP Autistic Community is hurting because fellow autistics were willing to offer them as sacrifice to raise awareness for the white autistic narrative, and the young TikTok creators are hurting because they’ve had to accept responsibility and confront the ugliness of racism, which is so saturated within our culture that we, who are privileged, cannot see it, hear it, feel it, until it’s called out. We, who are privileged, do not want to see these things because when we do, we must acknowledge our complicity, and this feels so akin to damnation.
However, accountability is not damnation, and to respond to accountability is actually to invite salvation…