Some members will hold even more firmly to their viewpoints. Some autistics will mistrust parents more. Some parents will mistrust autistics more. And some members will mistrust their own. Some on both sides will withdraw. Some will show less concern for each other's well-being, focusing on our own and our family's. Community cooperation will decrease. Friends will disagree.
This is what happens in an equal rights movement, in a diversity effort. Acknowledging that a group of people within our midst have unequal opportunity because of disability is difficult. We feel remorse for not recognizing the inequities. We feel defensive because we didn't cause the situation. We feel denial because the group includes our own children, for whom we have the most love and best intentions. And, underneath it all, we feel guilt and helplessness for not being able to do more
We feel unstable, no longer sure of ourselves. So that when we are asked to change our language, our behaviors, our views, we resist. We push back. We point out that autistics themselves use inflammatory language. That they stereotype parents. That they discriminate against parents. So, we say, if they're asking us to change, they need to change, too. They need to change their language, their behaviors, their views about parents.
Except that we are not the group being discriminated against. We are not the group at risk for abuse. We are not the group who remain unrepresented on the board of the largest autism organization. We are not the group without a voice in the media.
We neurotypicals don't even identify as "neurotypical" because we don't have to. We aren't classified by our differences. We are individuals first. Disabled persons don't get that choice. They can pass as neurotypical, maybe, sometimes, in some cases. But if they want accommodations, if they want acceptance of their differences, if they want the same opportunities we have, they have to identify as disabled.
Disabled persons are, in fact, discriminated against. When they want equal housing or employment opportunites, they have to rely on legislation, not the goodness of people's hearts. Autistics know that they may be maligned at any time, randomly and without warning, as they were recently in the wake of the Aurora, Colorado shootings. They know that they must use their precious energy in rallies and protests just to get the same civil rights that neurotypicals enjoy, without rallies and protests.
They do not have the power that comes with being the majority.
And because they do not have that power, they must protest. They must rally. They must complain. They must demand attention. They must demand respect. They must demand change.
It is not our place to tell them to watch their language. To change themselves. To respect us first. To stop complaining. This stage of the neurodiversity rights movement is the radical protest stage. It's radical in its demands. It's a protest by nature. Yes, legislation, the ADA, helps a little. It protects some rights. It ensures some opportunities. But it hasn't fixed everything. So the movement proceeds forward to address the many forms of subtle discrimination, the outright torture (like the Judge Rotenberg Center and the bleach treatments), and the malignment of autistics that still exists in everything from education to services to the media.
That doesn't mean we neurotypicals must accept abuse without reason, that we should heap ashes on our heads. It doesn't mean we have to feel guilty or ashamed. It doesn't mean that we won't hear criticisms that are inaccurate. But it does mean that we should listen with compassion, to take the long view of history, to understand that to be autistic, even in this day and age, means to experience discrimination, abuse, and random cruelty because of their disability. It means we should give allowances and leeway, then give some more, in the face of their expressions of distrust and frustration.
We in the neurotypical majority feel anxious faced with a monumental change like the neurodiversity rights movement. Because we might mess up. Because we might fail when we really are trying. Because good intentions are not enough. Because we are being judged. Because pessimism and distrust are directed at us from within the community.
But we can't look at the state of the community right now and declare it hopeless. We can't claim that autistics' protests are invalid because they aren't phrased nicely. Equality movements are messy. They are chaotic. They are filled with the tension, negative feelings, and accusations from decades of discrimination.
We must look forward with the long view of history. Change is slow. Change is messy. But change happens. In the long view, we will establish relationships of trust. In the long view, it will be those relationships which will forge a different kind of community. A community of optimism, of trust, and of acceptance. A community where our children, or perhaps grandchildren, will see differences, not inferiority.
"When I was young, my mother told me not to get into trouble, but Dr. King taught me to get into good trouble, necessary trouble. And I've been getting into good trouble ever since." - Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga).
Right now, autistics are getting into good trouble. They are demanding change. After decades of discrimination, they deserve it.