Black, female and autistic — hiding in plain sight

If advocates for the autistic community are going to effectively place our cause within the larger spectrum of social justice movements, it is imperative for us to realize that — as with every other form of social discrimination — there are intersections between our hardships and those experienced by those who encounter racial, sexual, and other forms of bigotry.

This is why I reached out to Morénike Giwa-Onaiwu of the Autism Women’s Network, who chairs the Autism & Race Committee. After previously interviewing Giwa-Onaiwu for an article on the intersection between autism and feminism, I was struck by her observation that “I believe that my experiences as an autistic person has definitely been affected by my gender and race. Many characteristics that I possess that are clearly autistic were instead attributed to my race or gender. As a result, not only was I deprived of supports that would have been helpful, I was misunderstood and also, at times, mistreated.”

These observations, I realized, deserved to be further unpacked, and I was eager for the opportunity to speak with her in order to do so. If nothing else, it reminded me of an observation by John Donvan (co-author of “In A Different Key: The Story of Autism”) from our interview: “When you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.”

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15th March 2017