Reprinted with permission from Unstrange Mind.
Today I’m writing as part of a flash blog. A flash blog is when lots of people co-ordinate to all blog on the same topic at the same time. Today’s topic is really important — so important it makes everything I’ve ever been through seem like nothing. That’s because today’s topic is, quite literally, about life and death.
The topic began when Âû did a couple of Google searches. Today, we’re blogging about the autocompletes Google gave for the phrase “Autistic people should” I will just let you see what those autocompletes were at our flash blog headquarters because they’re evil and triggering and something I don’t feel like writing about today, even though there is a lot to say on that topic. I will just say this: it is not just something that a majority of people were searching for in Google (which is how the autocompletes are generated) but it is something that happens to many of us in real life, far too often, with far too little attention or empathy extended to us when it does.
Instead, I’m going to talk about what kind of things I think ought to be suggested to someone who types “Autistic people should” into a search engine.
This is not easy for me. Oh, there are a lot of things I think Autistic people should …. Landon Bryce hit the nail squarely on the head last night with “Autistic People Should Be Loved.”Yes. That. Definitely that.
But the things I think Autistic people should . . . be loved; be respected; have their civil rights protected; learn to stand up for themselves; be proud of who they are; be proud of their accomplishments; strive to live creative, happy lives; remember their history . . . these are things I think everyone, of every neurology should. I want to live in a world where I don’t even have to make a list like that because these sorts of things are so obvious and people are baffled as to why anyone would want to live any other way.
So I’m trying to think of shoulds that are just for Autistic people and I’m having a hard time.
And there’s a good reason for that.
It’s because Autistic people are PEOPLE. We are human beings. We are members of our species — if you’re reading this, actually reading it and not spidering it for a search engine, we are members of your species. Whatever you would say people should do, it’s probably something Autistic people should do.
I’m not talking about shoulds like “should brush their teeth twice a day” or “should do their homework,” although those can be important shoulds, too. I’m talking about the basic, fundamental shoulds — the shoulds people were fighting for at Seneca, at Selma, at Stonewall. Our fight doesn’t start with an S, so it wouldn’t have fit neatly into the inaugural address, but I’d include the shoulds people were fighting for at Willowbrook. And the shoulds people have been fighting for at the Judge Rotenberg Center. Autistic people should not be harmed. Autistic people should be treated with dignity and respect. Autistic people should have equal rights. Autistic people should be treated like human beings. Because weare human beings. It seems ridiculous that I should need to say that, but there is too much evidence out there suggesting that people forget this basic reality of Autistic life: we are human beings.
I know I talk about my fellow Autistics as being “my tribe,” and I mean that. Beyond sharing similar neurologies with each other, we have a distinct and developing culture with our own art, literature, and music. With our own history. With our own sense of pride in who we are. Many of us, diagnosed or not, are kept apart from other Autistics — the diagnosed are often segregated for fear that exposure to one another will “make the symptoms worse” while those who slip through the diagnostic cracks are isolated through ignorance. But when we are able to move past the separation and find each other, again and again we marvel at how similar we are. We have developed a culture even in diaspora. We are brothers and sisters, siblings, family, a tribe.
But we are also members of a larger tribe: humanity. When I talk about my people, my tribe, my Autistic family, never for a moment forget that we are also your tribe. We are human beings. And as such, we deserve the same unearned rights that Nature has bestowed upon human beings and Man is charged to recognize and protect. I am not asking for my civil rights; I am demanding that they be recognized, for they already exist by virtue of my membership in the human tribe. Moreover, while I am self-advocating when I demand recognition of my rights, I am not merely a self-advocate because I stand before you today demanding recognition of the human rights of all Autistics! I am an activist and while there are many things in this world that anger me, do not mistake my vehemence about our cause or my demands for our rights to be recognized as simple anger for that diminishes both of us.
The thing that people forget is that any loss in dignity and rights for any vulnerable member of our society is a loss for everyone. When society begins to recognize the rights of an oppressed segment of the population, life improves for everyone as a result. If you can search your heart and mind and find no other reason to protect the dignity and rights of your fellow humans, please choose to do it for the selfish reason that your life will ultimately improve if you work to help others have a seat at the table. When we are accepted and respected and loved and treated as full members of society and our rights are recognized and protected, you will rejoice. You will rejoice at what we are offering you. We are offering you ourselves — our minds, our hearts, our will, our work, our caring, our perspective, our questions, our answers. You will rejoice at the new dimensions society takes on when our beautiful hue in the human rainbow is acknowledged and allowed to shine brilliantly alongside all the rest of the bright lights of the human spectrum.
Autistic people should have our human rights respected. And we will not be the only ones rejoicing when it happens.