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Navigating the Complex Intersections of Neurotypical Supremacy and White Privilege

Today, I found myself unintentionally causing someone to feel excluded during a morning conversation. I was confronted with an accusation of racism by a black woman. At the outset of our interaction, her race and gender were unknown to me. Her comment was in response to a video another creator had created, where she expressed her belief that the creator's personal reflections on "life with autism" should have included statistics related to people of color (POC).

From her perspective, the creator was neglecting the inclusion of POC experiences in her content. In response, the creator acknowledged her own limitations in addressing this complex topic within the constraints of a brief video and suggested that a dedicated video focusing on this matter might be more appropriate. However, the commenter persisted in asserting that the creator possessed white privilege and was mistaken for not incorporating POC experiences into her personal reflection.

As I sought to defend the creator's viewpoint, I found myself met with criticism and accusations. The commenter felt that I was attempting to silence her and even characterized my actions as harassment. Now, I'm taking this moment to reflect upon why I was labeled as racist. I wholeheartedly recognize the profound impact of systemic racism on our society, which permeates our perspectives and behaviors. However, I want to emphasize that, in this specific situation, my intentions were not rooted in racism.

Instead, my aim was to shed light on the inherent challenges of fully comprehending the experiences of others, irrespective of their racial or neurodivergent backgrounds. I consistently underscore the importance of sharing personal experiences as a means of fostering understanding. Additionally, I extended an offer to promote any content the commenter might wish to share from her unique perspective. It's essential to note that I do not have a substantial following on TikTok; I primarily use the platform to express my own experiences and engage with my small community.

Despite my intentions, the commenter made it clear that it was not her responsibility to educate me, and she continued to characterize me as arrogant, prejudiced, and racist. I respect her perspective and her choice not to engage in educating me.

I acknowledge the possibility that I may have internalized biases due to living in a society steeped in pervasive racism. Nonetheless, I maintain that, in this particular scenario, my intent was not grounded in racism but in addressing the limitations of personal experiences within discussions about autism. I genuinely feel that I cannot adequately express the experiences of black or brown autistic individuals, as I have not lived those experiences.

Subsequently, I reached out to some of my black and brown autistic creator friends to delve deeper into this matter. They acknowledged that while I could have handled the situation more effectively, the brevity of the comments limited the depth of our discourse. Ultimately, they emphasized that the responsibility of sharing the experiences of a black autistic person should not solely rest on white creators. Instead, they stressed the importance of cultivating an inclusive environment that encourages individuals from diverse backgrounds to share their own stories and perspectives.

My friends also highlighted the intricate nature of statistics related to black autistic individuals, noting that they may not be effectively conveyed in a short video. They also mentioned that including a statistic related to POC in a video primarily focused on personal experience could come across as performative. They suggested that a dedicated video specifically focused on this topic could be a valuable undertaking. Additionally, they emphasized the value of sharing content created by black and brown autistic individuals, as it serves to amplify their voices and experiences without the need for others to speak on their behalf.

This situation evokes memories of a past incident where I confronted issues of racism in my workplace. In that instance, I stood up for what I believed to be right and, as a result, faced criticism, albeit from a different perspective. The woman I supported, who was directly affected, reached out to me, explaining that it wasn't my role to address the issue. She stressed that she possessed her own voice and that my actions in calling it out could potentially jeopardize her professional career. In response, I respected her viewpoint and retracted my claim, a decision that inevitably impacted my credibility within my workplace.

Addressing racism is a delicate matter; it feels like a tightrope walk where calling it out can put individuals at risk, and not addressing it can lead to criticism for perceived white privilege.

It's profoundly perplexing; my sole aim is to do what's right, but it appears that the path to righteousness is an intricate and challenging one. It's a situation where you feel caught between a rock and a hard place. The community-building effort I'm engaged in within the autistic community is founded on principles of inclusion and diversity. We strive to create a space where we all share a commitment to advocating for autism as a whole. Simultaneously, we recognize that there are individuals within our community who require additional support and advocacy, influenced by various factors, including race, socioeconomic status, or the specific support needs of autistic individuals themselves.

The voice that often faces the most marginalization within our community is that of a black autistic trans woman with high support needs. However, it's important to note that a black autistic woman may possess more privileges within the community than a white autistic woman with higher support needs, if that concept makes sense.

In essence, I believe it's essential to acknowledge that the responsibility of educating the public about the needs and experiences of autistic POC isn't solely borne by one group or individual. Instead, it's a collective effort, where we value and uplift the diverse voices and perspectives within our community. This multifaceted tapestry of experiences enriches our advocacy for the greater autistic community, fostering a sense of belonging where every voice is heard and valued.

I am acutely aware that there is a vast and intricate landscape of knowledge awaiting me concerning the multifaceted intersections of marginalization within an already marginalized community of individuals. This realization excites me, as it underscores the ongoing journey of self-discovery and enlightenment.

The intersections of neurotypical supremacy and white privilege are complex and deeply intertwined with broader issues of social inequality and discrimination. To understand these intersections, it's essential to break down each concept individually and then explore how they intersect.

Neurotypical Supremacy: Neurotypical supremacy refers to the societal preference for and prioritization of neurotypical (non-autistic) individuals over neurodivergent individuals, such as those with autism, ADHD, or other neurodevelopmental conditions. This preference manifests in various ways, including:

  • Stigmatization and discrimination against neurodivergent individuals in areas like education, employment, and social interactions.

  • The assumption that neurotypical behaviors and perspectives are the norm, leading to the marginalization and silencing of neurodivergent voices.

  • Lack of accommodations and support for neurodivergent individuals, making it difficult for them to access opportunities and thrive in society.

White Privilege: White privilege is a concept that highlights the unearned advantages and privileges that white individuals experience in societies where white people hold the majority of power and influence. This privilege encompasses various aspects of life, including:

  • Easier access to education, employment, housing, and healthcare.

  • Reduced likelihood of experiencing racial profiling, discrimination, or police violence.

  • Greater representation and visibility in media, politics, and positions of authority.

Now, let's explore the intersections:

Double Marginalization: When an individual is both neurodivergent and a person of color, they may experience double marginalization. This means they face discrimination and disadvantages based on both their neurodivergent status and their racial identity. This double burden can significantly impact their life experiences, opportunities, and well-being.

Barriers to Diagnosis and Support: White privilege can sometimes intersect with neurotypical supremacy when it comes to diagnosing and supporting neurodivergent individuals. Research has shown that people of color, especially Black and Hispanic individuals, may face additional obstacles in accessing timely diagnoses and appropriate support for neurodevelopmental conditions. This can lead to delayed interventions and missed opportunities for assistance.

Representation and Advocacy: In the realms of advocacy and representation, white privilege can play a role. Within both the neurodiversity movement and broader discussions of disability rights, there has been criticism of a lack of diversity and inclusion, with many voices from white, middle-class backgrounds dominating the discourse. This can overshadow the experiences and needs of neurodivergent individuals of color.

Intersectional Advocacy: Efforts to address the intersections of neurotypical supremacy and white privilege require an intersectional approach. Advocates and activists should actively work to uplift and amplify the voices of neurodivergent individuals from diverse racial backgrounds. This includes recognizing and addressing the unique challenges and experiences they face.

Building Inclusive Communities: Creating inclusive communities involves acknowledging the intersections of privilege and working to dismantle systems of discrimination. It means striving for equitable access to resources, opportunities, and representation for all neurodivergent individuals, regardless of their race or ethnicity.

The intersections of neurotypical supremacy and white privilege highlight the importance of recognizing the diverse experiences of all neurodivergent individuals. It calls for a commitment to dismantling barriers, amplifying underrepresented voices, and advocating for a more inclusive and equitable society for all.

In conclusion, the profound and complex intersections of neurotypical supremacy and white privilege have provided us with a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by neurodivergent individuals, particularly those who are people of color. These intersections emphasize the importance of recognizing and addressing the multifaceted nature of privilege within the context of marginalized communities.

As I reflect on my own experiences and the encounters that prompted this journey of self-discovery, it becomes clear that privilege and discrimination are not one-size-fits-all concepts. Privilege, whether related to race or neurodivergence, manifests differently for each individual, shaped by a myriad of factors including personal experiences, societal attitudes, and systemic inequalities.

My experiences as an autistic white woman have been marked by challenges, rejection, ostracism, and exclusion in a neurotypical world. While some might argue that white privilege should have shielded me from these difficulties, the reality is that privilege is not a guarantee of a trouble-free existence. It is crucial to remember that privilege and power exists on a spectrum, and it is only one facet of a person's identity and experiences.

In embracing the complexities of privilege, I am reminded that discussions surrounding privilege should never diminish or dismiss the very real struggles faced by individuals. Instead, they should serve as a catalyst for change, motivating us to advocate for a more inclusive and equitable world. We must continue to amplify the voices of those who are often marginalized and ensure that our advocacy efforts benefit the entire community, especially those who need it most.

The journey of understanding the intersections of privilege and discrimination is ongoing. It calls upon us to challenge our assumptions, broaden our perspectives, and actively seek knowledge and experiences beyond our own. It requires the creation of spaces and platforms that amplify diverse voices and experiences. It beckons us to be conscientious and empathetic advocates, working tirelessly to build a more inclusive and equitable society for all.

In this ever-evolving journey of self-discovery and enlightenment, I am committed to decentering myself in the advocacy work I engage in, recognizing that my efforts can and will impact those who are even more marginalized within the same community. It is a journey characterized by humility, empathy, and a dedication to uplifting voices that may not always be heard.

As we navigate the intersections of privilege and discrimination, let us remember that our collective goal is to create a world where every individual, regardless of their background or neurodivergent status, finds their voice heard and valued. This journey is not only about self-discovery and enlightenment; it is also about shifting the power dynamic to include more voices and perspectives. It is a journey worth embarking upon, as it paves the way for a more inclusive and equitable future for all, where the power of representation is extended to those who have long been marginalized.

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