Autistic Pride 2022: understanding the impact of intersectionality
One of the five tenets of Critical Race Theory is that we must apply an intersectional lens when doing anti-racist work. People of Colour aren’t a monolith. There are other oppressed identities (ableism, sexism, classism, homophobia, etc.) which also exist, that compound with racism, resulting in further marginalisation.
On that note: were you aware that Saturday 18th June 2022 was Autistic Pride? On this day we are encouraged to recognise the neurodiversity of the community and embrace its uniqueness.
First celebrated by Aspies for Freedom in 2005, Autistic Pride Day quickly became a global event, which is widely celebrated both online and offline. The purpose of Autistic Pride is to show the world that autistic people are proud to be autistic. They are not defective, nor in need of a cure and they have as much right as anyone to live happy and fulfilled lives.
“There will not be a magic day when we wake up and it’s now okay to express ourselves publicly. We make that day by doing things publicly until it’s simply the way things are.”
Tammy Baldwin, the first openly gay US Senator
We have created this blog post to encourage you to think about how someone’s race and/or ethnicity might intersect with their neurodivergence to create differential life outcomes.
Intersectionality: autism, gender and sexuality
Intersectionality theory proposes that people often experience multiple sources of oppression: disability, gender identity, race, nationality, religion, and sexual orientation, for example.
Research has shown that autistic people are more likely to identify as being LGBTQIA+. This means they find themselves having to work extra hard to be accepted and understood by society. Instead of sitting in one of the intersectional oppression categories, they end up in two or three.
Other areas of impact;
Over the last decade, research from the National Autistic Society has shown that families from ethnically-minoritised communities experience double discrimination due to their ethnicity and disability.
Access to diagnoses
A JAMA Paediatrics study of more than 7 million pupils aged 5-19 shows that race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status influence who obtains an autism diagnosis.
A different research piece published in 2021 by the Autism Research Centre at the University of Cambridge, found that Chinese pupils were 38% and Black pupils were 26% more likely to have autism than White pupils.
Racial bias in diagnoses
Some autistic people reach adulthood without a diagnosis. As autism can present very differently from the usual archetype of the ‘White super-talented man’, for example, Sheldon from Big Bang Theory. Just as autism diagnoses have been gendered, so too have they been race-biased to date.
Autism in Adulthood Morénike Giwa Onaiwu delves into this area further.
Policing of Black boys and men
We know that autism in young Black boys and men can lead to greater police injustice. In the US, racism compounded with ableism has resulted in the deaths, like Elijah McClain 2020. In the UK, you might recall the attack on Antwon Forrest earlier this year that was all but dismissed by police.
And at work?
“Many autistic people face discrimination getting support and a diagnosis and we know Black autistic people have even more difficulty” - Tylan Grant, Actor.
In a workplace that rewards being able to pick up on social cues, embody “professionalism” and think about our micro-behaviours (e.g. eye contact), undiagnosed autism could lead to a lack of support, misunderstandings and potentially even dismissal.
Autistic Pride isn’t just about celebrating who we are. It’s also about coming together, remembering those lost and working together towards a brighter future for the generations of autistic and other neurodivergent people to come.
Is your organisation doing all it can to support all people with autism?