The Digital Hyperlexic

Poetry, neurodivergence, book reviews, activism.

Tag: Race

The Only Way Out Is Through: Or a Bit of the Story Behind Time Travel in a Closet

by digitalhyperlexic

The following is a slightly edited and expanded version of the introduction written for my thesis while studying in Ashland University’s MFA program. I will be defending my thesis this July, and in our introductions we were each asked to discuss a group of around ten texts that form the “literary genealogies” that influenced the poems in our theses . This is also intended as an update since my original #MyWritingProcess post, which I wrote prior to both beginning my MFA studies and my transition.

CONTENT WARNING: Mentions of suicide, physical and sexual abuse, homophobia, anti-blackness, and ABA.


“Everybody communicates. Words are beautiful. Our words have value.”

These words by author and autistic activist Amy Sequenzia are simple, clear, and remarkably profound. Infinitely beautiful, and bigger on the inside.

With my words, I come to you as a survivor, a man with scars both inside and out. I spent my childhood and adolescent years occupying a series of closets, all nestled within each other like Russian dolls. I knew that my family expected me to be a “good Christian girl,” not the oversized, socially awkward, frizzy-haired, hormone-driven, hopelessly unfeminine dork I saw in the mirror. In their eyes, that “me” was absolutely unacceptable, and they reminded me of this nearly every single day until I was eighteen years old. Meanwhile, I hid the physical, emotional, mental, and sexual abuse that I endured at their hands. They demanded that I keep all of this, too, inside a closet. Read the rest of this entry »

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Nothing About Us Without ALL of Us. That Means Autistics of Colour, Too.

by Memoirs Of A Dead Woman

First things first: I suggest that Steven Shapin find a new profession.

His lack of journalistic integrity in his recent New Yorker article, “Seeing the Spectrum“, is painfully evident. While reporting about John Donvan and Caren Zucker’s book In a Different Key: The Story of Autism, there is a clear failure to recognise just how problematic this book is. All Shapin has managed to do in almost 3900 words is perpetuate the same old tired and horrible myths about autistic people, including:

  • that we need to be cured;
  • that abuse is acceptable treatment (READ: ABA);
  • that we are rigid, inflexible, emotionless beings; and,
  • that our own communication and testimonies are unreliable.

Shortly after the article’s appearance, protests on social media began by autistic people. Some of them used the hashtag #notblackmirrors, in reference to a quote from the article:

“It’s a searing experience to have a child who doesn’t talk, who doesn’t want to be touched, who self-harms, who demands a regularity and an order that parents can’t supply, whose eyes are not windows to their souls but black mirrors.”

Thinking it would be helpful, I also posted a couple of selfies — one on Facebook, one on Twitter — adding my voice to the #notblackmirrors protest. Trouble is, this wasn’t probably the most well thought-out protest. Not too long after my own tweet, I saw this post from Radical Neurodivergence Speaking on Facebook:

“SHOCKINGLY ENOUGH Autistic PoC exist. Many of us have extremely dark eyes (mine are on the light side of ‘dark’ & if you know me in person AND look at eyes you know…yeah they can be mistaken as such). I can think of a dozen Autistic people off the top of my head that have basically-black eyes.”

This was a case of me not thinking before I posted and tweeted: not considering something very important. While #notblackmirrors may have been well-intentioned, it does leave out a large percentage of autistic people of colour. Sometimes, my own eyes are so dark they’re almost black. This was true for my late father, who was African-American and autistic, and well as my future husband’s late  father, who was South Asian (Indian) and also autistic. Additionally, I know several autistic people of colour whose eyes are black or almost black.

Radical Neurodivergence Speaking ended that post by saying “Do better. Please.”

And they’re absolutely right.

A few artifacts surrounding all of this are very telling, and point to additional larger issues. Because the link above is to the Do Not Link version of that heinous article, the original contents and artwork are still visible. Included is an illustration of what seems to be a large image of a light-skinned male child, in front of which there is scaffolding with small groups of people standing on it. Of course, my mind immediately flashes to the often perpetuated image of autistic people as, as someone else on Facebook put it (and my apologies to the original commentator, as I can’t remember your name), “eight year-old white boys obsessed with trains and airplanes.”

Which, of course, leaves out ALL autistic adults. And autistic people of colour. Finally, it leaves out autistic women and nonbinary autistics.

When I used to blog on Woman With Asperger’s, I frequently mentioned lower diagnosis rates for autistic women and girls, and also lower rates of diagnosis, later diagnoses, and lack of access to services for autistic people of colour. For me, these were issues very close to home. I’m a multiracial person of Black ancestry, and until late 2014 I identified as female (the story behind that is a different post for a different time). And I was not diagnosed until age 34. To be fair, I grew up in a dysfunctional family of origin: so my late diagnosis may have saved me. Had I been identified autistic as a teenager, it is very likely my family would have institutionalized me, or worse. I might not be sitting here writing this post right now. I spent nearly all of my childhood trying to pass for allistic, once I figured out that I was not the so-called “normal” that everyone else seemed to be. My chameleon circuit worked so well it almost killed me.

My set of problems are shared by some autistics. There are also issues of abuse, exclusion and restraint, our own testimonies being seen as unreliable, lack of access to needed supports and services, and so forth. However, for some of us — particularly autistics of colour — there can also be issues of life and death. Autistic people from all backgrounds have been murdered, but autistic people of colour face institutionalized racism which increases our chances of facing wrongful arrest and violence. One need only think of the cases of Neli Latson and Kayleb Moon-Robinson — both within the last two years — as examples.

Nothing about us without us. That phrase has often been used to address policy made on us autistic people without our input, a lack of autistic voices in media coverage about us, and funds raised without any of the money directly benefiting us as well as harmful, ableist pity-based messages about us used to raise those funds.

That statement should be amended to read: Nothing about us without ALL of us. Just as mainstream LBGTQIA+ organisations have ignored the needs of queer people of colour, autistic activism should strive not to make the same mistakes. It’s bad enough that mainstream media whitewashes autism. Autistic activism should be careful not to (whether purposefully or inadvertently) do the same.

My words are meant out of love for fellow autistic activists. Shapin, Autism Speaks, et. al: no love for you. Sorry not sorry.

N.I. Nicholson

Neli Latson Receives Conditional Pardon by VA Governor

by Memoirs Of A Dead Woman

Neli Latson, as a child

[Image: a pair of tan-colored hands holds a photo of a young black teenager with closely cropped hair wearing a plaid blue and orange button-down shirt. The photo is inside an ornate red and gold picture frame.]

Qapla’!

Neli Latson has been granted a conditional pardon by the governor of Virginia.

This is due to Kerima Cervik’s petition to pardon Neli Latson receiving over 2,000 signature and the diligence of many disability rights, autistic, and other activists.

As Kerima says, ” Please don’t lose track of Neli, and do not forget the injustice done to him. We need to make certain the ADA is protected and that what happened to Neli never happens again.”

Related links:

– N.I.

#BlackPoetsSpeakOut : I Am Tired of Mourning Our Dead

by Memoirs Of A Dead Woman

My name is N.I. Nicholson, and I am a black poet. I will not sit by silently while black people are being murdered. And I have a right to be angry.

I have reposted this from the blog on which it originally appeared, Raven’s Wing Poetry.

For other black poets reading selections as part of #BlackPoetsSpeakOut, see here:

http://www.culturalfront.org/2014/11/a-roundup-of-blackpoetsspeakout.html?m=1

I Am Tired of Mourning Our Dead

while words clump together
dam up my throat like
dead black bodies

we feel our strangled necks:
the strange feeling
the nooses never left

don’t explain
our dead children away
we know

reasons drip
rotting, strange fruit
swaying in a sour wind

invisible hands
count our blood drop coins
we count bullets

stolen breaths
murderers walking free
your justifications

will not feed our babies
sing them to sleep will not
bring them back alive

will not strip away
the price tag stamped
on my forehead

lest you think you’re free
reach up tune in
your numb fingertips

rub away your privilege
feel the dollar sign brand
seared into your forehead

and tell me
hashtag all lives matter
how about hashtag

stop
killing
us

Written 11/28/14
© 2014 N.I. Nicholson. All rights reserved.

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#BlackLivesMatter