I have written a bit about privilege before. While I am autistic, I still hold privilege because I am white. I also know that the privilege I hold means that I can never fully understand the meaning of that privilege.
Recently, something happened which has highlighted the privilege that I hold as a white person.
In response to the article in The New Yorker (I wrote a little about this here), a hashtag was born: #NotBlackMirrors. I didn’t participate in the hashtag because it felt wrong, but I couldn’t figure out why it felt wrong. Honestly, I never realised that it might contribute towards the erasure of people of colour. I never would have thought that because of the privilege that I hold.
I am grateful to the disabled people of colour who highlighted how the hashtag contributes to their erasure. So, with their kind permission, this post is to share their words.
“Affirming that our Autistic eyes are #NotBlackMirrors just doesn’t have the same empowering effect when many #BlindAutistic and Blind people do kind of have dead-looking eyes. Can we just go with eyes are not a reliable source of telling how soulful or soulless someone is?”
(Permission received to share with a request to remain anonymous)
“OK y’all, i get what you’re doing with the #notblackmirrors hashtag but you need to look at the other shit you’re doing also.
SHOCKINGLY ENOUGH Autistic PoC exist. Many of us have extremely dark eyes (mine are on the light side of ‘dark’ & if you know me in person AND look at eyes you know…yeah they can be mistaken as such). I can think of a dozen Autistic people off the top of my head that have basically-black eyes.
So, like, you’re ignoring us. Again. Fucking awesome. About us, directly excluding us. Neato.
And then there’s the fact that some blind people’s eyes are described as looking dead. Which is a big awful thing to say about anyone’s eyes but also, once again, about people directly excluding them. Neato again.
Do better. Please.”
– Radical Neurodivergence Speaking
“I’ve actually had a few issues with the autistic community pushback in #NotBlackMirrors lately (in response to the horrible New Yorker article). A lot of autistic activists posting in that hashtag and on this topic seem to have missed a few important things, namely, that
(1) a number of us autistics of color actually do have black or near-black eyes (like mine for instance), so the posts about how real autistic people’s eyes aren’t “black mirrors” tend to erase a lot of us autistic PoC;
(2) blind autistic people may also have “dead-looking” eyes because blind, so the same posts also tend to erase a lot of blind autistic folks too;
(3) the idea that eyes being “black mirrors” is a negative thing depends on racism as much as on ableism (i.e. that blackness is bad and so is autism); and
(4) the idea that eyes are a window to the soul anyway is pretty vidist (ableist specifically against blind and low vision people) because it assumes sight as the best/only way to perceive the world.
So yes, the original article is majorly fucked up and full of many flavors of ableism, but it’s fucked up beyond just the one level of “omg autistic people have no souls.” Can we call the shit in all its complexities please?”
– Autistic Hoya
I’m not going to add to those words in any way because it’s not my place.
To fellow white autistic people: If you participated in the hashtag, you’re probably going to feel a bit defensive. Of course, you didn’t intentionally erase autistic people of colour. But intentions don’t negate harm. Privilege means that we do a lot of the messed up things. But let’s try to do better in future.