I don’t write much about Autism Speaks for a few reasons. Mainly, my level of horror in response to the things that they say and do prevents me from writing anything. Secondary to that, I’m fortunate to live in Australia where we remain somewhat free of their influence.
Of course, we do have another organisation that operates in a very similar way to Autism Speaks, but their following is thankfully smaller. Somewhat more worrying are our autism peak bodies which recently have started to appear as though they’re following the template laid down by Autism Speaks. I can understand that, to a degree, because Autism Speaks has been very successful in raising oodles and oodles of money. But, our autism peak bodies really need to recognise that there is massive opposition to Autism Speaks that has arisen from the autistic community.
This post is not about our peak bodies though. Nor is it directly about Autism Speaks’ recent ‘call for unity‘ which appears to be a mixture of ‘stop saying mean things about us’ and ‘let’s give ourselves a pat of the back for being so consistent in our awfulness.’ This has already been done by other bloggers and you can read that here.
What this post is about is the actual sentiment and power play behind most, if not all, calls for unity or moving on. In almost every content, these calls are made by members of the group that holds the most power. They rarely come from the oppressed group.
This observation is not limited to the autistic-allistic parent groups, it seems fairly universal. In Australia, I see it once a year in January when we ‘celebrate’ Australia Day which is held on the anniversary of the landing of the first fleet of British ships. The thing is Aboriginal peoples in Australia see this celebration as the anniversary of invasion day. Every year, white people ask ‘Why can’t we move on?’ I’m a white person, so I realise that I hold privilege in this regard. I can understand, on an intellectual level the harm that it causes to have that day celebrated like it was a good thing when it led to generations of Aboriginal peoples experiencing oppression. But, my privilege means that I have not lived it, so I can never fully understand the extent of that harm. That said, it appears incredibly obvious that the only group of people that are able to decide when the time is right to move on, or to call for unity, are Aboriginal peoples.
The same could be said for any parent-led group that routinely silences Autistic voices. You don’t get to call for unity while continuing to silence the people that you’re requesting unity with. That’s not unity. It’s just further oppression.
It’s not up to a group of oppressors to call for unity because that’s disingenuous. Calls for unity from oppressors mean ‘Shut up! We’re not going to listen to you. We’re just going to keep on doing what we’re doing, and you’re supposed to deal with it.’ Calls for unity can only come from the oppressed group; they cannot come from the oppressors.