Our few days in Washington, DC were rich in so many ways… and it will likely take me a while to capture and pin the words of even a few of our many experiences to the page. So now I find myself sorting these in my head – the things that resonate – the things that matter most – and I am evaluating what is worth sharing, and what I might let slip away from my experience-capturing-pen, to be held instead solely by H’s and my memories.
I often find myself considering my role as the mother of this young man, and the intersections of our lives and our interactions with each other and beyond. I feel a responsibility to raise my son to be caring and sensitive and to have an understanding of his experience of the world and the way his experiences are similar and dissimilar to others. I want him to understand his rights and how these go hand in hand with responsibility – and how he is privileged with certain things because he is white and male and Canadian, and how he may be marginalized or challenged or dismissed in other ways because he is Autistic and otherwise Neurodivergent.
It is important to give him the opportunity to understand the impact of what it means to be disabled by a society that is not accommodating, and to see that this is societies’ shortcoming – not his, and to see the similarities and parallels of other social injustices that limit access and opportunity, such as prejudice and classism, and the effects of poverty and racism – and the intersectionality of so much of this. I want him to understand that none of this is fair, and I hope to give him opportunities to consider how the edges of his experience interact with others – the things we share and have in common… and big picture – how we can work together to rail against injustice to make this world a better more loving more supporting and caring and accepting place for everyone.
Sometimes opportunities present themselves unexpectedly… and these things that might seem quite small in spur of the moment, turn out to be about the really big important things…
That happened a few times at TASH… and here is an accounting of one of those times.
Our wonderful friend, Emily Titon, H and I decided that we should head out one night to support the #BlackLivesMatter protest that was making its way through the streets of DC.
According to Emily’s Twitter feed was just a few blocks or maybe a Metro ride (or two) away. H had expressed a wee bit of reluctance before we started out, but when we assured him that we could leave if he felt uncomfortable at any time, and he was good to go.
As we were tracking the protest, we had the opportunity to talk about the reasons for the protest, and about racism, and white privilege, and other important concepts whilst riding on the Metro…
And at Union Station…
And climbing certain monuments…
And attempting to ring the freedom bell… among other things…
And though it took us a while, we finally located the protest we began to walk with the other people, and we were welcomed.
We were invited to join the people marching and chanting, which is important to note I think – because though we were there to support this civil rights movement – we were not there to co opt it.
H was proud to be taking action and lending his voice and his presence to this action. I felt the same way. #BlackLivesMatter
“Tell me what democracy looks like?
This is what democracy looks like!”
The contrast of participating in a protest like this in DC and that the need for this action co-exists in the same place, the same country, that proudly waves its flag of freedom and decries injustice on a global scale was an irony that was palpable.
I felt the metaphorical shadow of the history of this place and of the iconic monuments, cast upon us in a way that has me wondering at the missing fidelity to the concepts of civil rights and social justice and democracy.
“It is our Duty to Fight. It is our duty to win. We must love and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
The next day H and I discussed different aspects of what we heard and saw and experienced the night before. When I wondered aloud whether H thought we were brave to participate in the #BlackLivesMatter protest surrounded by a rather daunting police presence… he reflected:
“No… we were not brave. Because we are white there was no risk… The black people there were brave.
We were not brave – we were supportive…”
White privilege… Social justice… Human rights… Speaking up… Taking action… Democracy… Racism… Intersectionality… #BlackLivesMatter
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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 (2014)