A Message to Suzanne Wright and Autism Speaks

The short version of the message is: in the end, you and your vicious attacks will be remembered as pariahs of the Autistic Civil Rights Movement.

Now, the longer version:

I recently watched the movie “12 Years a Slave”, and parts of it were, to me, strongly similar to what I see happening to proud Autistics today, to what I experience everyday.

I am not comparing the details of the abhorrent and inhumane way slaves were treated then with how Autistics are treated now. Slavery is the worst kind of oppression of, and disrespect for, a human life.
I am talking about how a privileged majority can oppress a minority simply to keep a status quo that devalues human lives.

I want to make a point though: many slaves were murdered and there was zero accountability or punishment for the murderers. In the same way that, today, too many Autistics (and other disabled people) are being murdered and the sad trend is to excuse and understand the murderers.

Back to the movie: it reminded me of you, and what you and your organization do.

You and Autism Speaks want to keep the status quo, the fear and the hate because that’s how you make your money and because of your perceived – and false – superior position in society. Just like the actions of characters in the movie who wanted to keep the slaves that made them money and gave them a perceived – and false – superior position in the human race.

I have seen you use your influence, money and celebrity connections to spread a message of fear and terror about autism. You refuse to acknowledge that there is a whole new group of Autistics that will not be silent anymore, while you try to pin on us the false pictures about our lives. You are oblivious to the still young Autistics finding their voices, their identity and their pride. You insist that our lives are miserable because you refuse to see that people like you are part of the reason why things are so complicated and difficult for us. You lump autism and some co-occurring conditions together to finance research that does not address the co-occurring conditions, but that seek to eliminate us. You are also oblivious to the growing number of allies siding with us, with our rights, because they see all lives as valuable and deserving of respect.

You are just like the characters in the movie that refuse to see progress coming, and try to hold on to your biased, even dangerous assumptions, instead of recognizing the humanity of a minority. Then, like those characters, you double down on the attacks.

The way you ignore our humanity has a good analogy in the movie, on a scene when a slave is wailing in pain after being separated from her children and hears from the white woman, supposedly a “nice” slave owner: “you should eat something, your children will be forgotten soon”. The way you and Autism Speaks talk about us, under the guise of wanting to “help” us, ignores how much it hurts and assumes we are incompetent and without feelings.

You, Ms. Wright, have easy access to a bully pulpit, you have power. But, in the end, Autistics and our true allies will succeed in having our rights acknowledged – because those rights are already ours. You deny us opportunities because you know you are the oppressor. You don’t want to see change coming because the status quo benefits your message of horror, and that’s how you raise a lot of money, fear money. Each day though, more people agree with me, and move away from Autism Speaks’ message. As with the long and painful emancipation process, and the still going battle for civil rights of not one, but many minorities, Autistics will also have a breakthrough moment, and then your message will be the one nobody will want to be associated with.

You try to silence us because you know justice and history are on our side. Give me, an Autistic you so assertively calls “tragic”, the same opportunity and a place in the pulpit, and let’s see who has a better message, who sides with human and civil rights. Let’s see with whom the majority of people will side.

Oppression will eventually lose, and so will you and Autism Speaks.

Love, not fear. I live a posAutive life.

Image description black and white photograph of woman with short dark brown hair. She is smiling. Dark grey text reads:Amy Sequenzia Passionate Autistic activist, writer, and poet . Read more from Amy on Ollibean and visit nonspeakingautisticspeaking.blogspot.com .

About the Author:

Amy Sequenzia is a non-speaking Autistic, multiply disabled activist and writer. Amy writes about disability rights, civil rights and human rights. She also writes poetry. Amy has presented in several conferences in the US and abroad, and her work is featured in books about being Autistic and Disabled. Amy is deeply involved with the Neurodiversity Movement and has been outspoken about the rights and worthy of disabled people. Amy serves on the Board of Directors of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), and the Florida Alliance for Assistive Services and Technology (FAAST). http://nonspeakingautisticspeaking.blogspot.com and Autism Women’s Network. You can also follow Amy on Twitter at @AmySequenzia.

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