Saturday, September 6, 2014

Filling a need: Autistic PoC Anthology Crowdfunding Request

Autistic Women's Network has an exciting, new, first of its kind project: An anthology of writings by autistic people of color (PoC). Lydia Brown of Autistic Hoya will be editing, and the call for submissions is here.

But to make the anthology a reality, we...need money. So what is going to happen now is I am going to tell you why this project is important to me, and then I am going to link to the crowdfunding site.

As readers may recall, I have been around a while (diagnosed in 1986, started doing the activism thing in 1999). You may also recall that I am biracial. So I came of age, and came to advocacy, in a period of time when there were very few role models. My college library's section on autism had:

-2 books by Donna Williams
-2 books by Temple Grandin
-2 books by Jessie Park's mom
-a book by Bruno Bettleheim

and that was about it. The public library also offered me Tony Attwood's book, Stephen Shore's autiebiography, Liane Holliday-Willey's book, and 2 general autism books. All by white people. Most by women, although the professional books made very sure to remind the reader that autism is more common in boys.

Now I'm going to ask you to think of the first 10 vaguely public autistic people you can think of. Quick!

Did you think of 10? Do you know 10?

How many of them were PoC? According to the books, autism occurs in the same rate among all races, ethnicities, classes, all the demographics. Yet most people who can come up with ten Autistic people can only come up with ten white Autistic people.

Image is 2 medium to fair skinned female presenting people, both with dark hair, dark eyes, and glasses. The person on the left has short black hair, is visibly of Chinese descent, and is wearing a blue t shirt. The person on the right has long very dark brown hair, is ethnically ambiguous, and is wearing a burgandy tank top. They are standing on a hotel luggage cart.

The above picture is me with Lydia, the anthology editor. We were being silly and riding around on a luggage cart.

A thing that any Autistic PoC notices at most autism events: they are mostly populated by white folks. Organizations around autism tend to be predominantly white, the parents who can afford to go to conferences (and the Autistics who can afford to go to conferences!) are predominantly white, school districts that can afford to send their teachers or other professionals tend to be majority white--it's really obvious inequality when you see it. This year at the Autism Society conference a speech language pathologist told it like it is: we need more color at these things.

Autistic children who are of minority heritage are diagnosed years later than their typical peers, often after years of struggling, being labeled "bad", and missing out on key services. There are all sorts of heartbreaking reasons that tie into this and other people are better at discussing the issues that come up in their communities.

But one of the things this leads to is that the children who are diagnosed? Still don't have as many role models they can relate to. I just can't relate to Temple Grandin for a number of reasons, and the little boys and girls of today are still hurting for role models who look like them, who understand the cultures they grew up in, who understand being racialized and dealing with ableism at the same time.

Image is a small medium skinned smiling girl with curly dark hair smiling standing in front of a lighter medium skinned female presenting person with dark hair in pigtails, also smiling. The little girl is wearing a hot pink swimsuit; the adult is wearing an orange swimsuit & purple tank top.

This is me with a young friend of mine, Emily (photo used with permission). Em is 4 years old, also biracial, and also Autistic. She's funny, friendly, extremely happy...and going to have a different experience of being Autistic than is expressed in most of the narratives out there. We are building an Autistic community, we are building quite the library of writings. Emily deserves to see herself reflected in those writings. If she goes to autism events, she deserves to see people who grok her experiences.

Knowing people who can relate to my Autistic brain: great and validating. Knowing people who can relate to being racialized: validating. Knowing people who grok being Autistic and dealing with racial issues? Priceless.

I want the next generation of Autistic kids who go looking in the library for stories they relate to to be able to find more than the autiebiographies and the doom and gloom books. I want them to see that, contrary to what the media will tell you, autism is not a neurology reserved for upper middle class white boys. They are not alone, even if they're the only child of color in their class. I want their parents to feel less isolated, by reading things by people who have been where their child is. I want their professionals to have a resource for how things interact, how the autistic experience is different across cultures. I want something to touch that shows our diversity and our shared experiences.

Do you want that too?

If you are able to donate, it'd be much appreciated. The Indigogo link is here. Please pass along the fundraiser, and please pass on the call for submissions as well.

No comments: