I have been reflecting on privilege… and perhaps entertaining the loss of it as we work to find our place and way to support others in the autism community.
I have been raised with privilege (not riches and extravagance – see the link at the end of this post to learn more about this). Although I am in my late-forties and have occasionally felt the sting and squeeze of sexism, or the judgment of others in dealing with low mood and depression, I have not suffered abuse, nor have I been silenced because of my neurology, or my ethnic background, or…
That sense of privilege has a shadow… and the shadow is the assumption that I have the right to speak up – to say my piece – to be heard… and I am coming to realize that this attitude may actually silence or dilute or diminish the message of others.
I am trying to be aware of this so that I do not assume the same privilege when I am interacting with Autistic adults. If I am working to empower the voices of others – I may need to be willing to make my own subordinate. If I am sensitive to this… I may feel silenced… I may need to silence myself.
This feels uncomfortable at times… I am learning to make peace with this discomfort. It may feel like I am being silenced by those I am trying to support… and it may even feel like there is an irony to this.
But this is not about me.
I may feel misunderstood at times… I need to carry on regardless.
Sometimes I may want to jump in to try to repair a misunderstanding – or to explain… but the difficulty is that doing so can seem dishonouring to others.
So I am learning about my own silence.
I am learning to embrace it… and to understand that my discomfort is deepening my understanding of the experience of others… and I also acknowledge that this is merely a glimpse of their experience, and that I cannot fully understand.
And within all of this I know that this is still not about me.
There is a deep questioning about my assumptions, and in my quiet I see there also exists an opportunity to reframe my experiences and question what I have held to be truth as a subjective reality. I am open to examining this.
I am shifting and changing, and my response to being misunderstood is now sometimes a quiet one. To rail against the perception of others can seem like silencing their perspective… the very perspectives that I want to honour.
If I want to make things different… I need to be willing to take the blast. Sometimes it may be because of something I did or said, and inversely, sometimes it might be because of something I didn’t say, and my silence was interpreted as complicit. Sometimes it has been because I wanted to support others and extended support in two opposing directions. There is no easy path that I can see… there is no way to get it all right – every time.
I am coming to accept that I will not get it all right. I am learning that as passionate as I may be about supporting others and working to create a world that is more supportive of diversity… there will certainly be mis-steps and some of those will most certainly be mine.
And I am learning that there is a yin and yang to voice and privilege. I may experience less power to my voice… I may perceive less privilege in an interaction… fewer rights to have my perspective understood… but the space left with my silence – may be the space needed to allow for the action and empowerment of others.
And I am working to be open to that…
And Then You Cry ‘Victim
Easy Silence: I am still learning to communicate
Autistic Advocacy, Jokes and Silencing (Please read this important post by Brenda Rothman at Mama be Good to learn more about Privilege)
30 Days of Autism is a project designed to fight stigma, promote civil rights, and increase understanding and acceptance for those who process and experience the world differently.
© Leah Kelley, Thirty Days of Autism, (2013)