I’m tired of being told how I should and should not do activism. I’m tired of feeling like someone is always working against me when they claim to be working with me.
My entire life I have been told I’m not doing things right, need to do more and/or try harder , but I don’t put up with it anymore and I won’t put up with it in my activism either.
Allies are a super important factor to any civil rights movement. We need allies because the fact is some people won’t listen to us, but they will listen to the same message from a person of privilege.
My favorite article on being an ally comes from the ASAN website and is written by Kassiane Sibley which you can read HERE. She admits being an ally is hard work and that we expect a lot out of our allies, which is very true.
She points out something I wish to expand on: Being an ally is not a conditional thing, I’ve seen people who are supposed to be our allies and claim to be intersectional activists call out Disabled people and disability organizations that are ran by Disabled people because they didn’t *jump* fast enough for XYZ issue.
I’ve seen them say things like “If you’re not with me on my issue, I’m not with you about disability”
And this is a nope for 2 reasons:
(Note the use of *we* is meant to include Disabled individuals, disability organizations ran by Disabled people and other communities ran by Disabled people)
Reason #1. If you’re an ally to Disabled people, you are an ally because it is the right thing to do not because you can get something from us.
If you are really an ally to Autistic and Disabled people, instead of demanding we *do this thing right now or else* you need to be thinking about why we may not be able to do that particular thing in the time frame you think we should.
In other words check your privilege.
Accessibility barriers may exist and can include things like not having enough energy (physically and/or mentality) to handle certain subjects or do certain things.
Constant pressure to perform in ways that we really are not able to is not only unfair to us, it is discriminatory and oppressive. It can be very damaging to us, draining us mentally and physically, and can be a hazard to our overall health.
It is important to remember that Autistic and otherwise Neurodivergent people need a lot of down time and/or prep time in general. It’s easier for a lot of people to remember that about Autistic kids, but it applies to Autistic adults as well.
Often, we must pick where our energies are best spent for self preservation purposes. Personally, I have had to scale way back on things I love to do, because they take energy away from all the things I need to do just to survive.
I have to make decisions everyday about how best to conserve my spoons. Those decisions are not easy for me to make because I want to do *all the things* but am not able to and I am not alone in that aspect.
So, what can you do instead of demanding things from us?
Well, if you’re worried about why we haven’t taken on a certain issue, the best course of action is to sincerely ask us (not call us out and/or shame us) and offer your help/support if we say we’re overwhelmed with responsibilities. Help is almost always welcome!
But, if we tell you we can’t take on a certain issue for a certain reason, please presume we are competent enough to know that is what is best for us.
Reason #2. If you claim to be committed to intersectional social justice it does not mean you get to put up road blocks at certain intersections.
Saying you’re intersectional, but won’t support Disabled people because they aren’t showing you they care, in the way that satisfies you, actually means you are not being intersectional. Intersectionality just doesn’t work that way.
Trust me when I say we do care and we already feel guilty we can’t do more. Please don’t force more guilt and shame upon us. The shame and guilt society lays on us is enough already, we don’t need it coming from people who claim to support us.
Some of us in the community are the main contributors to many of the projects you see. We put a lot of energy into many of the activities and events that we host. We pick which autism/disability issues we address and how we would like to address them (again because of spoon conservation).
So, when we see a supposed ally speaking publicly about how they believe we should or should not do things the way we are or they state they will being doing their part, but in the opposite manner because *we* have it so wrong (this is usually done passive aggressively, not directly) ,we get a little bit angry.
We get especially angry when the voice of the nondisabled ally seems to be more important to others than the voice of actually disabled people about disability issues.
This is speaking over us.
This is undermining our efforts.
This is oppressive behavior.
This is the opposite of what an ally is supposed to do.
We should not fear taking care of ourselves and having to say no. We should not feel on the edge of being called out or shamed all the time, especially in our own spaces, for being unable to do something because of our disabilities. We should not feel guilty or pressured to do more than we are able.
Those are the things our allies are supposed to push for other people to stop doing to us, yet here I am writing about our allies not doing this to us.
So, if you’re a nondisabled ally do some privilege checking and think about all of this the next time you want to push us or expect more from us.
Ask yourself “Am I helping or am I hurting?”
About Kimberly Steiner