I read something yesterday morning that made me deeply uncomfortable. An autistic person claimed that we hardly ever experience discrimination anymore.
That statement has swirled around in my head for almost two days now. It’s strange that anyone would claim such a thing – especially an autistic person who surely experiences some discrimination directly. Maybe that person believes that the discrimination they experience is due to personal failings. Perhaps, they hold privilege on other axes which protects them from some of the discrimination that we face. Maybe they are unaware of the effects of the discrimination we experience.
Let’s start by considering a dictionary definition of discrimination:
“treating a person or particular group of people differently, especially in a worse way from the way in which you treat other people, because of their skin colour, sex, sexuality, etc.”– Cambridge Dictionary
Many Autistic people face discrimination as a result of their intersectional membership of minority groups. Autistic people aren’t one dimensional beings. Our communities include many people who experience multiple forms of oppression. This is because Autistic people can be members of multiple marginalised groups. The discrimination that those marginalised groups experience impacts on many Autistic people too.
Questions to Consider
We also face discrimination on the basis of our neurotype. If you think we don’t experience discrimination, then here are some questions to consider:
- Why does therapy mainly focus on making us seem less autistic? (As an aside, why is it acceptable to traumatise autistic children with therapy that is still considered to be best practice?)
- Why do anti-vaxxers still use the fear of us as the subject of their campaigns?
- Why do people still call us disordered?
- Why is institutionalisation still acceptable?
- Why do people still think that the word autistic is a slur?
- Why do parents who murder their autistic children get so much sympathy?
I don’t have the answers to any of those questions, because if these are not examples of discrimination then what are they?