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Join us for an insightful discussion with Jen White-Johnson, An ADHD Black, Boricua Mother of an Autistic child and Art Activist for Disability Culture & Justice. We'll explore the intersectionality of Neurodiversity and racial justice, addressing the presence of racism within the movement. Learn how to actively promote inclusivity and equality in advocating for Neurodiversity while acknowledging and addressing the biases in diagnostic criteria. This conversation strives to empower individuals to work together for a more just and inclusive advocacy movement.
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To Be Pro-Neurodiversity is to Be Anti-Racist
February 4th, 2024
Welcome everyone to Today’s Autistic Moment: A Podcast for Autistic Adults by an Autistic Adult. My name is Philip King-Lowe. I am the owner, producer, and host; and I am an Autistic Adult. Thank you so very much for listening.
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Thank you for joining me for To Be Pro-Neurodiversity is to Be Anti-Racist. Jen White-Johnson is my guest for this show.
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The first episode of Autistic Voices Roundtable Discussions: Celebrating Intersectional Autistic Lives in 2024 will be on Wednesday, February 21st at 2:00pm Central Standard Time. The roundtable discussion topic will be Respect for Autistic Autonomy. Exploring the importance of autonomy for Autistic individuals, our diverse panel will discuss how decisions affecting health care, careers, clothing, food, living conditions and social interactions often neglect our preferences. Join us for a meaningful discussion on why respecting Autistic autonomy is crucial, the role neurotypical people should be playing in fostering understanding and support. Join us on Wednesday, February 21st at 2:00pm on the YouTube channel @todaysautisticmoment. The show will be recorded and made available for viewers to see whenever they want to watch it.
I am excited to announce that one of the new focuses of Today’s Autistic Moment is highlighting the intersectionality of Autistics, particularly during Black History Month. Historically, Black Autistics and other Neurodivergents have often been left out of the conversations surrounding disability justice and inclusion. This year, on Today’s Autistic Moment, I will be hosting guests and exploring other topics related to Autistics and Neurodivergents represented by the diverse interracial communities.
In the upcoming Fall episodes, I plan to feature guests who can help us recognize the experiences of Indigenous Autistics and Black Autistics from inner-city settings. By amplifying their voices and perspectives of individuals from various backgrounds, we aim to promote a more comprehensive and inclusive understanding of Autism and Neurodiversity.
Creating a platform like Today’s Autistic Moment, which celebrates the diversity within the Autistic community, is crucial for fostering solidarity, awareness, and empowerment. I am committed to making meaningful contributions to promote inclusivity and understanding.
Last December, I looked at the profile of Jen White-Johnson on X (formerly called Twitter) and saw her quote in the cover photo. “To Be Pro-Neurodiversity is to Be Anti-Racist.” As I read Jen’s profile, I learned that she represents several intersecting communities. Jen is disabled, Neurodivergent, black, and a Boricua mother of an Autistic child. Once I read about Jen, I wanted to invite her to come on Today’s Autistic Moment to talk about her incredible quote. It needs to be said that the work of anti-racism needs to be talked about, because racism is in many intersecting communities including, but not limited to the Neurodiversity movement.
After this first commercial break you will hear Jen White-Johnson and I talk about her quote “To Be Pro-Neurodiversity is to Be Anti-Racist.”
Commercial Break I
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Ah, Jen White-Johnson, thank you so much for being on this episode of Today's Autistic Moment to start out Black History Month. So welcome.
Thank you for having me. It's a pleasure to you know, just to share space with you today.
Thank you. Thank you. I'm so glad you're here. Yeah, well, um, yeah. So well, this is my second Black History Month by which I've been talking about Black Autistic Adults, Black Neurodivergents. And so. And I like we need to do some real honest talking about how racism is affecting Neurodivergence across our intersectional communities. So, I'm so grateful that you're here. And it really inspired me when I looked over your Twitter X profile and saw the words “To Be Pro-Neurodiversity is to Be Anti-Racist.” And, boy, that's a mouthful. And I think it would be great to just explore that question. So where can we begin to explore this understanding that “To Be Pro-Neurodiversity is to Be Anti-Racist,” and how it affects Autistic Adults and our intersectional communities? So go ahead and give me some answers to that question.
Sure. Yeah, I mean, that statement, it's, you know, it's really a call of accountability. It's a call of action. It's a call of, you know, solidarity. I realized that words, you know, have so much power and, you know, as we see every day with content and media, you know, like, it can definitely, you know, make or break, you know, conversations it can influence, you know, so many people's way of thinking and reimagining and, and so I knew that in 2020 specifically, you know, when a lot of folks, especially white people, let's just keep it real, they were open to, they were finally open to having solidarity conversations with black and brown BIPOC people and, you know, they were actually realizing that, okay, yes, black people are being murdered, black disabled people are being murdered, you know, constantly. This is going back, you know, decades centuries, that this isn't necessarily a new conversation for multiply marginalized people. But in essence, it ended up being a new conversation for white people, you know, specifically to have conversations about, okay, well, what does it mean to be an anti-racist? You know, what does it mean to be, you know, pro-black? And, or just to be, you know, pro-disability, you know, what does that really mean? And I felt, and a lot of my fellow Black disabled comrades definitely felt that the black disability perspective was being left out of the conversation, when it came to the conversation about anti-blackness, anti-racism, especially since, you know, black people multiply marginalized people are often discouraged to, you know, disclose their disability out of, you know, thinking that it's, you know, this clinical, you know, marred and scarred way of existing that you should never talk about, that you should never, you know, hold space for. And, you know, you know, just, I mean, being able to have some really thoughtful conversations with a lot of, you know, black disabled comrades, like, you know, Imani, you know, Bararian, and, you know, LeRoi Moore from like, hip hop nation, and just a lot of really amazing black disabled voices, who are very unapologetic, in terms of their stance when it comes to how much black people, black disabled people need to take up space, unapologetically voices, you know, like Talila Lewis, you know, like, you know, Lydia Brown, and, you know, folks who were definitely inspiring me and encouraging me to be more spoken. To be more well read about black disability about BIPOC, disability culture, you know, friends, like, like my autistic friend like John Marble, from Pivot Diversity. And so, folks that really wanted to be able to have really great conversations about, okay, well, we're all disabled, we're all Neurodivergent. But our perspectives, our voices are constantly being erased in the conversation of anti-racism. So, whose voices are being erased? Whose voices are being left out of the cultural conversation? And what does that really mean for all of us? What does that mean for advocacy culture, you know, like performative allyship? You know, all of these things, were, you know, all of those folks, their voices were taking up so much more space in 2020. Whereas the black disabled voice and just the disabled voice period was, was I felt being erased. And when you're looking at, you know, the data, you know, when you're looking at, um having conversations about, you know, how it's still legal, you know, to pay disabled people sub minimum wages. You know, how it's still an issue when it comes to police state sanctioned violence, you know, that, you know, disabled folks, especially black disabled folks are often you know, arrested, while they're still in their early 20s, just because of, you know, the inequities when it comes to understanding, you know, disability and how that intersects with racism, and violence and crime. And, you know, and how a lot of space just really isn't held, you know, for that perspective. And so, I knew that if we're talking about being pro-disability, pro-neurodiversity, and essence, like, that's the key of this anti-racism conversation. Specifically, just because of black voices, you know, people of color, like specifically are just being left out. So, it was just, oh, it was just that statement just really came from really fruitful conversations that I had had with my fellow disabled comrades about you know, okay, so like, you know, how can we take words and how can we take you know, language justice and specifically like our language Um, you know, disability infused language and how can we, you know, say something that is truth? And that's fact and that that people need to be brought to, you know, basically, you know, like Alice Wong and the Society of Disabled Oracles like making sure that disabled folks are the authority when it comes to having conversations on, you know, marginalization and racism.
Yeah, absolutely. Let's talk specifically though about the Neurodiversity Movement, especially Autistics and ADHD, Dyslexics and Dyspraxia and many others. You know, we are all of course, part of the disability community as a whole. Don't want to diminish that, but especially with black people who are affected by misinformation and stereotypes and of course, diagnostic criteria, which is, you know, really written for. We said, I've said this with Precious Lesley and precious Leslie is coming on next show, to talk about Education, Healthcare and Education Disparities for Black Autistic Adults. But you know, but let's, I want to hear from you. Because you have an Autistic son, am I correct? Yeah. And you, you are ADHD yourself. So, I want us to talk about how this how you feel anyway, what you have to say about how this is impacting I, excuse me, impacting Black Neurodivergent people? So, let's talk about that.
Yeah, I think it's definitely impacting us. From, you know, the space of compliance, and how, if we aren’t compliant to, you know, how we navigate, you know, our role in academia, or how we navigate our role in, you know, in the economy, how we navigate. Our role in employment, and in school, we're often, you know, kind of othered, and we're kind of put in this kind of separate space of, all right, well, you know, we don't necessarily understand your way of existing and your way of living. So, either we're going to ignore, like your accessibility needs and your needs for accommodation, you know, or we're just going to make you work even harder to, like, "normalize yourself." And so, you know, we're spending the majority of our time, you know, masking like our neurodivergence and masking our disability, and it just it, you know, it becomes more laborious for us. And if you're black, you know, if you're Latino, if you're, you know, if you're just a person of color, then we're literally marginalized, you know, even more and, like, I recently, you know, came upon a letter that I had written to my mom and dad when I was in the second or third grade, and I'm gonna read it, because my mom actually, my mom actually sent it to me. On my birthday, actually, like, she had it, like, I just turned 43 in December, and she's been digging up because I've been very open about my ADHD journey to my mom and dad, you know, because I'm late diagnosed and, you know, been trying to explain to them look like, I've always been this way. And I've always, I always knew that, you know, that there was something really unique and eccentric about me. But we know that Neurodivergence often looks different in in women and black girls, and so I wasn't, you know, folks like me, especially in the 80s and the 90s. Growing up, we weren't necessarily on the radar for being you know, for have it for being neurodivergent. But she's been sending me things that kind of give me clues, and that kind of give me a little bit of insight into how much I was masking when I was a kid. In terms of like my ADHD and how I was always trying to be the good the good little girl, the good little black girl, you know, so that I can be respected and be taken seriously. And the letter it says Dear Mrs. Yamen, I know I'm bad all the time. And I do not do good in math. And I'm a talking girl. And you don't like you do not like me. I talk a lot. You'd like me, right? Right. You do. This is literally what I'm saying in this letter, don't you? And I always have a billion questions. And I always have like a billion Ss on my report cards. And so, the S's, you know, they stand for satisfactory. So, in other words, like, I was just getting by, like with grades like in elementary school. So, I always equated that to, there's something wrong with me, you know. And so, I, I tell her I go on to tell her next year, I will do better, I promise, I promise I'll do my work. And you know why I'm writing this because I might be in your class next year. So, the letter, so the letter stops there. And then I have like a picture of like, of a smiley face a, which is like her in front of the class. And then all of these students are like, kind of, like, surrounding her, and they all have smiles on them on their faces. And, and I sign it like your friend, Jennifer. And I literally, like, I was like, I started crying, like, heavily when I read this, and I don't think my mom, like really knew what the letter was going to do to me. But the fact that, you know, I've only really been talking about my ADHD like, since, like, you know, you know, since adulthood, obviously, but I've spent like the majority of my early 40s, like backtracking, like, all of like, these behavioral, like differences, and all of these, like, bits and pieces of, of, you know, just, again, information and eccentricities that I like, clearly, were like crying for help and to be understood. And so, this is like, one of like, the earliest, like documented things, like evidence that I have, you know, me as an ADHD kid, like, Me, who knows, as an undiagnosed Autistic kid, like reaching out for that validation, right? Reaching out for acceptance, reaching out for community, and being very, like, articulate and unapologetic about it, like, so it's like, I'm calling, I'm, like, I'm calling myself out, right? Because we're taught as kids, you know, like, well, if you get bad grades, and if you talk a lot, like there's there must be something wrong with you, right? But then I'm also trying to hold her accountable by saying, I bet you like me, right? Like, you still like me, right? Because in my mind, I was thinking, well, this is who I am. And it's still your response. And it's still your responsibility to accept me as me, you know. So I think it's, I think it's so interesting how, like, from an early age, I was, like, still trying to like, advocate, you know, in, in the best way that that I knew how, like, as a Neurodivergent kid, and so like, that's, that's really where, like, that's really where we are as like black Neurodivergent people as a culture, we're like, constantly seeking out like, acceptance, that validation to be taken seriously, you know, to be taken seriously. To be like, leaders to be people that are sought out before like white Neurodivergent or white disabled voices. You know, because we have, like, we understand, like, what it's like to live every day, you know, wearing a mask to be more, you know, just to kind of like exist in this space of, you know, of being looked at from a very inferior, you know,
Yeah. That's all extremely interesting. Um, now, I want to kind of emphasize here that, you know, I am part of the white majus. Sorry, I don't mean to, I am part of the white majority in this country. And there's so much about black Autistics and other Neurodivergents that I'm not totally aware of or understood. Can you explain a little bit more in detail about how a lot of the diagnostic criteria is whitewashed? Raul presents. Can you come talk a little bit about that?
Yeah, I mean, now, I'm not like a clinician or a doctor or anything. But, I mean, from my lived experience, as I had mentioned it, it can be whitewashed, to a certain degree where black folks, especially black disabled folks and Neurodivergent folks are often you know, very much, you know, demonized and or we are subjected to like adultification. You know, so that if we so that, you know, if we are experiencing any sense of like bullying or discrimination in the workplace, or in the classroom, you know, which is where I tend to, to work as, as an educator, you know, we're, we're often very much viewed as okay, we'll stay in your lane. You know, it's, it's not always about race, you know, even though module, even though majority of the data, and, you know, especially in the 80s, and 90s, was always very much, you know, okay, well, this is the research that we've done on Autism, which centers and singular eyes is Autism to view like, you know, a white condition that impacts you know, like, young white boys, and it was very much the same, it was very much the same with ADHD. And what I'm saying is, like, nothing new, this is like a very standard talking point that you would hear any other, you know, black disabled advocate, say, so, you know, as a woman, you know, I'm not necessarily on the radar for the conversations on Neurodiversity, you know, because, again, like, I've had to project and I've had to very much showcase and highlight myself as quote, unquote, like, “I got this.” You know, like, like, I'm fine versus no, like, I need help, and I need assistance, and I need accommodations, and I need more time, I need flexibility, you know, like, I need, you know, I, you know, like, I deal with neuro fatigue, you know, and so, so what happens is that when things are whitewashed, we have a lot more, you know, white publications or white folks, you know, white Autistic folks getting more grant funding or getting, or they have access to more resources or access to more education, access to more, you know, degrees, and, you know, where, as, you know, black folks are like, you know, you know, firstly, like we're dealing with late diagnoses, and then when it comes to what we publish, and how much we publish, and how much support that we get. There's often very, like few Autism based celebratory books, and cultural conversations that tend to be led by black, like, you know, black disabled and black Neurodivergent folks.
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And this is one of those places where I do want to point to the Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network that is really working to address the issues of race in that organization.
Yeah. And, and right, and so when I was first, you know, when I first started to have like, these, like, internal conversations with myself about neurodivergences, yeah, you know, like, Morénike Giwa Onaiwu, like Lydia Brown. And, you know, T.L. Lewis, like, those were a lot of the, like, the first, you know, of course, you know, Kayla Smith as well. A lot of really beautiful voices that I learned early on, like, Okay, I need to enwrap, like, I need to just wrap myself up in like, their, their language in their cultural amplification when it comes to amplifying you know, black women and like black, you know, like nonbinary, you know, humans and, versus, you know, like leaning more towards the conversation of, oh, you know, Autism is burdensome, and we should work to eradicate it altogether. And so, so yeah, so whether it's, you know, the Autistic Nonbinary Network, whether it's, you know, Carrie Gray, and like the named advocates, and, you know, all these really beautiful spaces that really helped to, you know, amplify and then even early on with like, Taylor McGee, and like, the Black Disability Justice Collective, you know, and, and I would often read Taylor's words, and sadly, Taylor's no longer with us. But Taylor, you know, like, as an Autistic person, it was really beautiful to read their words and to be so inspired by, you know, the work that they were doing, and, you know, Minnesota and so that was also a collective that I followed, you know, early on, and like my Neurodivergent, you know, journey and it's like, okay, so, you know, one, like one less way that we can whitewash, you know, neurodiversity is to follow what bipoc folks are having to say and what they're publishing and what they're reading and the organizations that that they're, that they are a part of, and, of course, like the joyful amplificatory messages that that they're constantly, you know, highlight then, you know?
After this next commercial break, Jen and I will further discuss many of the interracial individuals within the Neurodiversity movement and how Autistic Adults can become engaged and empowered to impact the conversations around racism and disability justice.
Commercial Break II
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I want to move into my second question here. How can we engage the intersectional know, Autistic Adult communities regarding “To Be Pro-Neurodiversity is to Be Anti-Racist?” Let's talk about let's spend some time here talking about how can we get you know, when I talk about Autistic Adults, of course, that's my purpose for Today's Autistic Moment. But you know, when I talk about, I'm when I talk about the intersection here, and this is for you, as well as for my audience, I'm talking about the other Neurodivergents that we intersect with including people who are ADHD, who are dyslexic, or also dyspraxic, or some of the other ways that Neurodivergence is part of our communities. But we also want to talk about because, as we've said, the Neurodiversity movement has been whitewashed to the point where we, a lot of us who are white, are not really listening to a lot of the racial diversity voices that we need to be hearing. And including in our conversations and in our, in our reading, and our literature, and some of our surveys, and so on and so forth. And I want to start by, I want to finish up my question for many Jen White-Johnson, Jen, sorry, but the thing that I want to emphasize here is that the best way that we're going to, we're going to learn how to bring all of these communities together is by listening to one another story about what these things are like for us. So, with that in mind, and I know I put a lot of stuff in there, but that's my job. But yeah, let's talk about engaging and let's talk about, about how we can, once again talk a little bit more about you know, getting Neurodivergents, involved in the work of, of Neurodiversity and racism, activism and, and that sort of thing. So go ahead and give us your thoughts on that.
I mean, again, and I'm always going to point towards, you know, um, you know, bipoc disabled folks that are very much already, you know, doing this work. And I just one of my favorite things to cite is, you know, of course, like Disability Visibility, you know, by Alice Wong, and because, you know, Alice has such a really beautiful, just method to bring so many voices together. And to hold space for, you know, like you said, like, the intersection of so many disabled voices, from all from literally, like, the entire spectrum of disability, because, you know, physically disabled folks, you know, often are like dealing with different aspects of like, Neurodivergence, especially when it comes to, you know, ADHD and Autism. And so, you know, early on, you know, in addition to following, you know, a whole bunch of voices like Kayla Smith and, and to Timotheus, you know, like, Alice's was reminding me, and I was just like, Yeah, you know, don't forget, like, in my disability visibility, visibility book, like I have, you know, essays by so many beautiful people like Neurodivergent folks. And I really loved, and I have the book in front of me, and I'm trying to, to find, like, I didn't know that Timotheus was like on her podcast. And, you know, he talked so much, as well as Kayla did about, you know, Black Autistic Joy. And, you know, they were having those conversations as, you know, Black Autistic Adults, and I feel like that was the conversation and just the statement that I felt like, you know, was missing from, you know, so when we're talking about the intersections of disability and neuro like diversity and when it comes to Hey, like, so we have like these different ways of expressing ourselves. We have like these really, you know, interesting aspects of identity and the ways that we communicate and the ways that we create as Neurodivergent people. And it's really up to us to not perpetuate these systems of ableism and of negativity and that often, you know, showcase that intersection of okay, well, if you're Autistic, and you have ADHD, like, how the heck do you even manage? Like, how the heck do you even, you know, how are you even respected or taken seriously, you know, as like an educator or as an artist or as an advocate? But in essence, you know, intersecting between multiple different, like, neurodivergent tendencies, like, it makes me I feel like it makes me a better artist, and it makes me a better parent and a better friend, and a better advocate to my community, because I'm able to, I'm able to speak so many languages, and I'm able to like, to hold space for so many different, you know, for those intersections, you know, because like Audrey Lorde said, you know, "we don't live single issue lives." And so, whether I'm dealing with aspects of anxiety, you know, coupled with ADHD, coupled with, you know, undiagnosed Autism, and then also coupled with, you know, parenting an ADHD, Autistic kid, you know, and it's like, you know, it's like, those are intersections, and I'm constantly living every single day. And I'm holding space for those intersections, and realizing that, okay, well, you know, because I have, like, just like, dyscalculia, like, we're, oh my god numbers and like, they jumble like, literally, like I can't, like it's like, and the older I get, the worse it gets, in terms of being able to, like, pick apart formulas and do math, in essence, that that allows for me, it's like, okay, well, if I, if, if it's difficult for me to, to work in numbers, then maybe I can work in colors, or I can work in shapes, or I can work, you know, maybe through music a little bit better, or the way that I hear sound, the way that I hear sounds. And so, I've really leaned on art, like my art and my design to really help to tell like, those stories about intersection. So, whether it's designing, you know, a cool sticker that says, you know, create more anti-ablest spaces, or little mini booklets and zines and posters that say Autistic joy, or amplified black disabled lives, it's like making sure that the words that I'm using, instantly are able to identify, hey, like, I'm black, and I have a disability. And that's the intersection, you know, right there. Like, I be like, those two, I can be those two things, and I can celebrate those two things I can celebrate, you know, black, and being Neurodivergent, and being black and being disabled, and I can celebrate, you know, those cultures, and, but when I do it, I'm gonna like hyper focus, and everything's gonna be like, super colorful, and super, and super vibrant and super, like, you know, super quirky and because that is the only way that I know how to express myself. And plus, like, I know that going being super extra and super joyful and playful, that's going to resonate the most like with my audience, because I know that that's, you know, what they love, and that's a stigma, like, most of most of the Autistic for most of my Autistic friends. And artists that I love are like, extremely colorful, like, you know, Amina Moociolo, and, like Doodle Cats and like, and like all of these folks that create stickers and apparel and, you know, and like liberatory messages of calls to action, like with their design work. It's all like, it involves like, every single color on the color wheel. It's like a full spectrum of joy. And I'm like, Yes, like, that's what I want, like, give me all the colors, like give me all of it because we all know it's difficult as an Autistic person or Neurodivergent person, at least for me, my lived experience to just pick one thing because like I love so much of everything, and I feel like I shouldn't have to be penalized for not wanting to love everything. And that's exactly and that's what intersection, it means it's embracing all of it and embracing the multiple languages, the multiple identities that we have.
Yeah. Absolutely, and yeah, and, and one of the things that I have come to believe as a matter of personal conviction, is that regardless of what one's sexual orientation is, all of us, Autistics, Neurodivergents, we are all in one way or another gender non-conforming. Yes. Because. And, and it continues, and it's something that I always struggled with as a kid. But of course, you know, I never knew what to call it. And so, because, because just the way our brains work, and our bodies respond to whatever's going on, it's all very unique. So, if you're looking for a group of people to fit into the stereotypes of certain genders, don't look for that in the Neurodivergent communities, not at all.
So, what I hear you saying and please correct me if I'm mistaken here, is that part of engaging ourselves is simply by recognizing our unique and our similar strengths and our identities, you know, recognizing our interconnectedness with, you know, being Autistic being Neurodivergent. And then also with all of these multiply different cultures that we're seeing, you know, we're seeing more cultural diversity within the Neurodivergent movement, or Neurodiversity movement. In fact, one of the things I am going to do next fall, is I am going to talk a lot more a little bit about the Indigenous communities and that sort of thing. As well, as well, as you know, we're going to be taking a look at, you know, the black gender nonbinary experience as well. So, yeah, so, does that sound like what you're trying to what you're trying to talk about?
Yeah, I mean, just being kind of open and embracing that, you know, you know, like you said that, you know, it's okay to just exist. So whether that is existing, as you know, a Two Spirit person, whether that's existing within, you know, a nonbinary space where you don't conform to one gender, or right where you are, or maybe like, like, for me, like, I'm she/they, because I want to be able to, like, hold space for that other aspect of, of my, whatever, you know, like, you know, like, I just want to be able to hold space for it. But I definitely respect. And I, you know, yeah, and it took me, you know, a while to feel comfortable, you know, doing that, but then I also felt like I wanted to be, you know, like, and clear, you know, like, you know, solidarity, but you know, it's really beautiful because, you know, you were talking about like Indigenous folks, and, and I really love, you know, we've been hearing so much about Lily Gladstone, obviously, you know, with, Killers of A Flower Moon and the role that she played and, and she's been very, you know, she also goes by then. So, she/they both pronouns, just like me, and it's like, she's been one of the things that I've been really comforted in. Like, when I'm reading articles that she has been very open about talking about, you know, like, you know, people, like, who were Two Spirit and being able to kind of shed light that in most native languages, that there are no gender pronouns, you know, and I know that like, Jen Deerwater is like another really great person to speak on about this as well. So, if you want to be able to, like talk about like, Two Spirit, you know, like indigenous voices, disabled voices, like Jen would be amazing to have one cast as well. But yeah, like so. So, so just realizing, you know, that, yeah, like the fact that there are languages that don't even really have like, a he or she, it's just like, there's just they like you just exist as a beautiful human. And that's good enough.
After this final commercial break, Jen and I will talk about the importance of listening to the voices of Neurodivergents regarding disability justice, racial inclusion and avoiding conditional acceptance. Today’s Autistic Community Bulletin Board will immediately follow the conclusion of our conversation.
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The next episode for Black History Month will be on February 18th. Precious Lesley returns to Today’s Autistic Moment for Education & Healthcare Disparities for Black Autistic Adults. Precious Lesley will explore the intricate intersectionality of race, gender, and socioeconomic status in the experience of Black Autistic Adults specifically within the realms of education and healthcare.
Today’s Autistic Moment will recognize Women’s History Month beginning on March 3rd with the show Education for Autistic Women. Karen Timm an educator in Canada will be my guest to discuss how the misinformation about Autistic women place them at a terrible disadvantage when it comes to education. We will talk about the learning needs of Autistic women and what we can do to advocate for their equitable access to education.
On March 17th, Michelle Markman comes back to Today’s Autistic Moment for the show Autistic Pioneers: Unearthing the Female Architects of Discovery. The history of Autism is blurred due to the lack of recognition of the many Autistic women who are part of the Autism story. Michelle joins me to name and talk about the many Autistic women and their contributions to where we are now.
Check out the Future Shows page on todaysautisticmoment.com for all upcoming shows and guests.
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Thank you for listening to Today’s Autistic Moment.
Well, um, now that we have explored this topic, and talked about how we can get be intersectional Autistic Adult communities engaged, how can we empower Autistic Adults to discover their strengths and use them, as we talk about :To Be Pro-Neurodiversity is to Be Anti-Racism, “how can we empower them to get involved to become part of the work towards, and this is where I say to Autistic community and, and many others, that part of how you become empowered. And among the ways that you become engaged, is I've said this multiple times, but it's worth repeating. You must know your brand, make, and model of Autism or whatever your neurodivergence is, and you must be You must tell your stories about what being parts of these communities mean for you. Whether that's through arts, whether that's through music, whether that's through what's right, it's what to, you know, how you express yourself or, or however it works for you. That's one of those ways that we start to change the conversation. But I also want to talk a little bit about there's been some conversation in the past, that part of the reason why we're not dealing with the issue of race very easily, there's two reasons. Number one, it's hard for people, people of various races to talk about them because of the discrimination and violence they've experienced from the white supremacy by white majority movements. And then the white folks don't want to get involved because it makes them angry about, you know, or they go back to their stereotypical understandings of black people, which is also unfortunate. But one of the reasons I am doing these programs during Black History Month and in various other parts of the year, because, until we including myself as a white male, I may be gay, but I'm still a white male. And an Autistic person until we give our black Autistic or black disabled are black Neurodivergent people a chance to tell what's happening to them and how it impacts them, it's going to be difficult for us to get into these conversations. Because unfortunately, when a lot of lot of black people start to talk about their story, unfortunately, their voices are silenced and spoken over. And what I want to do, especially with this new framework of Explore, Engage, Empower, is that we're actually going to listen. We're not going to silence or speak over these voices; we're going to let them speak. So, I know that's a lot I, I pack a lot into there, but let's talk about getting them empowered. So, I'll let you talk now.
Yeah, I mean, I think you said it well, in terms of, you know, making sure that we're not silenced, you know, making sure that we're not spoken over. You know, it's, it's clear that, you know, folks who have, you know, maybe more of a "following" or, you know, they're more visible, sometimes they're viewed as the, you know, "experts," you know, because, you know, oh, like they've published, and because, you know, like I said, they have, you know, more degrees or maybe because, you know, they again, you know, have more access to resources to share their, you know, their overall agenda. And so that, right, that leads, you know, BIPOC, you know, voices and queer voices and multiply marginalized voices, you know, like you said, to be erased, and then so, what ends up happening is, you know, black folks are, and folks of color are, like, literally tasked with the labor of all right, okay, so then how do we create the change, you know, that we want to see, you know, how do we, you know, I feel like we already are, like, the change, you know, because we've been able to, you know, endure so much ableism, discrimination, racism, you know, so we are the change, you know, just for existing, you know, just for, you know, being vocal about our struggles, that right, that are not divisive, like, you know, CRT, you know, Critical Race Theory, and Disability Critical Race Theory, you know, discredit like, it's not divisive, it's, it's, you know, it, it's empowering, you know, like you said, like, it's, it's, it's allowing for, you know, disabled folks and neurodivergent folks to be the leaders of these spaces and the leaders of these conversations. So, so yeah, it just means that we have to be able to create more to empower more. And so, most of so that graphic, like to be pro-neurodiversity is to be antiracist, that wasn't tied to like a specific organization. It wasn't a commission-based piece, you know, no one paid me to do that. That was just something that again, it was it was like a solidarity statement. And me using my training as a graphic designer as an artist, and that's just kind of the voice that literally is just the voice that I'm most comfortable using, expressing my disability like my neurodivergences, you know, like, literally, like, That's the voice that has just kept me the most safe. Because it's art and you know, most people respond to when they don't want to accept your words, or when they don't want to accept, you know, you protesting and you, you know, speaking loudly, like, oh, they'll like art is sometimes can be digestible enough. It can definitely get you shadow banned for sure. When it's like, you know, as it has me, you know, like, like I said, you know, like, I think that if I was to, to post this graphic now like To Be Pro-Neurodiversity is to Be Anti-Racist. Oh, like, the minute that someone's using the racist, like, they'll instantly who knows, like, they'll report it. But in 2020 No, it was, it was almost very acceptable language to, to amplify and, and to highlight, you know, at a time when social media was like, Okay, well, we'll allow it, you know, now, it's like, Oh, my God, you know, it's just like, God forbid, like, we actually, you know, say things that even incorporate the word decolonization and, you know, anti-ableism, and anti-racism, and, you know, because instantly that's viewed as very threatening divisive language, you know. And so, but in essence, we know that it's no, like, that's just the language that we use, that is going to empower us because we are unapologetic like to me, like that's what language justice is, it's making sure that the words the language that we use, is visible, and that it's out there, and that we actually name it.
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And yeah. Let me ask you a question that's kind of burning. It's a little bit of a last minute one for our guests. So, I apologize. But, you know, I've had conversations last year, with Precious Lesley and I probably will again, but there's also the matter of, "conditional acceptance." Basically, you know, we accept for the period of time, and then it's like, we brush off, and it's if we never had the conversation. Do you have any ideas about how we can move past conditional acceptance and make it real? Make it? Make it tangible, palpable?
Yeah, I mean, definitely conditional acceptance. I mean, it's, it's, that's like a really interesting pairing of words. Because, right, it's like, you know, again, you know, a lot of black and like, Latin kids, because I'm, you know, black and Puerto Rican. So, I can speak from both perspectives, you know, right. Like, the condition on accepting your disability, is that you're going to do everything that you can to, "overcome it," you know? Right, exactly. Yeah, you know, that, that you're going to try your best, and you're going to try as hard as you can, you know, to comply, to comply, to follow the rules to stay in your lane, to, you know, appear as normal as possible to get out there be like an asset to society, get a job, you know, and, you know, be all that, you know, that you can be and, but it's like, wait, but I still have a but I'm still Neurodivergent. And I'm not going to advocate to fix myself or to cure myself, like, I'm not trying to overcome anything, like all I'm trying to overcome is capitalism and ableism. And, and discrimination and racism. So why should I have to accept myself based on these specific conditions? Exactly. So, when I hear that statement, like, that's ultimately like, what comes to mind and so, right, like, work, like, its unconditional acceptance, it you know, like, that's how I would rather, you know, articulate it out for me. Especially as I'm a parent, and I'm like, I went have to wake up every day to take care of a little person. I'm like, a little human that I want, that I want to love unconditionally, whether it's conversations that I have with my friends, or with my students, and I'm like, I want to be able to, like, take care of you or to love you unconditionally. You know, I want to accept you, unconditionally. Not this isn't a transactional relationship. You know, this isn't going to, oh, I can't, you know, this isn't going to work. You know, only if, like, I can get something from you, if you can just write something, you know. Like, we can only be friends, or I can only have you in my life based on these conditions. You know, so, yeah.
Well, Jen, this has been a fascinating conversation. Wow! Before we conclude this, do you have any resources you might encourage? So, folks, some folks to reach out to?
Sure, yeah, I mean, like, I have a website, jenwhitejohnson.com, where I'm constantly sharing, you know, like, my art, and I have tons of resources on there, that can be downloaded for free, such as the, the anti-ableist art educators manifesto, which is just a, like a, a PDF that you can download, and you can print it in, or it's like, or I have, like a social media graphic, too, that you can post online and share in solidarity. And it's, it's specifically geared towards, you know, how art educators that are disabled, and also non-disabled can show up for their students. Show up for whether you're teaching in a classroom, or whether you're teaching, you know, like, at a community center, or whether you know, you, you know, whether you're, you know, in spaces of advocacy, and you are interacting on a daily basis, or you're just interacting at some point with, you know, disabled folks, and it's like, how to show up. And how to be an anti-ableist, you know, you know, so, like, I have nine rules, you know, nine principles, and that really just are meant to, again, like statements of solidarity on how we can come together using art to again, show up. Yeah, I feel like that's the first step. So whether you're just, you're showing up, you know, financially, whether you're showing up in support, whether you're showing up in solidarity through, you know, like, you know, reposting or, or you know, like having a conversation, a phone call, I mean, yeah, or letting students specifically create, like, without limitations, and being able to, again, like one of the, one of the questions that I get a lot of is, you know, oh, well, you know, am I allowed to, like, talk about my disability, like, in my work, and, and I'm like, if you're comfortable, and if that's what your heart is telling you sure. You know, like, because there's a lot of folks that can really identify, and will resonate with the way that you want to communicate and, and so folks are often they're taken aback how I can create a sticker design that says that that's using the words Autistic and joy together, and they're like, wow, like, I've never, you know, seen, like, you know, a design that uses those two words together that is being specifically used to amplify, like my own, like Autistic Joy, like, that's wow, you know, and it's so yeah, so it's just resources. Like that. And, and I also have links to my shop, where you can get like, fun stuff, T shirts and sticker designs, and that, again, that a hold space for disability, joy, and celebratory messages, since it's so rare. That, you know, black disabled artists are actually out there, you know, making things that help to embrace our disability. And yeah, and then I have information about like, zine workshops that I do, and, you know, holding space for disability Justice, and, you know, disability history. And so yeah, I just have a whole bunch of fun stuff on there. So, and then, of course, I'm on social media, on Instagram.
Well, do send those resources to me, and I will make sure they get on to my Adult Autism Resources Links Page so that people can access them. So yeah, send them along. Jen White-Johnson, thank you so much for this wonderful conversation. I am so glad you came on and shared all this with us today. I hope this has been a good experience for you. And I definitely want to definitely celebrate all this with you. So, Jen, thank you so much for being on today.
Thank you. Thank you for having me. Thank you all for listening.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Today’s Autistic Community Bulletin Board
All of these events with their links can be found at todaysautisticmoment.com/bulletinboard.
Join The Autism Society of Minnesota for their Adult Coffee Club. The next Coffee Clubs will be on Tuesday nights from 5pm to 7pm at Dogwood Coffee in St. Paul on February 6th, March 5th, April 2nd, May 7th, and June 4th. Please RSVP at ausm.org.
Understanding Autism virtual classes will be offered by The Autism Society of Minnesota. These classes are perfect for Autistic individuals, caregivers, those who want to understand the basics of Autism and support Autistic people. Classes will be on February 12th from 10am to 12pm and April 8th from 10am to 12pm. Classes are free of charge, but you must register to attend.
On Tuesday, February 20th beginning at 7-8:30pm there will be a work shop at The Autism Society of Minnesota called Learning to Drive While Autistic, presented by Kathy Woods.
Register for part 2 of Language Development in Neurodivergent and other Gestalt Language Processors with Marge Blanc on March 7th, 2024, beginning at 9am to 12pm. This is the second part of the workshop that was held on December 7th of last year.
Registration is now open to attend the Minnesota Autism Conference to be held on April 17th – 19th at the Hilton Doubletree Hotel located at 2020 American Blvd. E. in Bloomington, Minnesota. Keynote speakers include Dr. Paula Kluth and Dr. Devon Price.
Go to ausm.org to get more information about these and other social and educational events, including your opportunity to enter the lottery for AuSM’s Summer Camps at The Autism Society of Minnesota.
MNeurodivergent is a social club rooted in a vision of bringing Neurodivergent Minnesotans together to build meaningful connections. Its core principle is to foster an environment where all are treated with dignity and respect regardless of ability or preferences. Go to the bulletin board at todaysautisticmoment.com and click on the Meet Up link to become a member and attend their events.
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