I'm a Black, Autistic Woman and I'm Not Alone
When you know the actual truth, it gives such a sense of relief. Growing up, I was what people called a “weird kid.” I lived in Detroit, MI as a child, and because of that, I had it rough. Now, if you know anything about autism, you’ll know that when women and girls have it, we tend to copy or mimic the social behavior around us. That’s how I survived school, all the way from elementary to high. I had to pretend I was like the other girls. When I was in middle school, that was the worst part of my life. Even then, I wasn’t diagnosed yet because my mother saw there was nothing wrong with me. Now that I’ve been diagnosed, I can see all the traits in me within her.
However, that’s not why I’m writing this story. I want to talk about how hard I feel it is to have anything that makes you different in the black community. As a black woman, a Detroiter, and a person on the autism spectrum, my life hasn’t been 100 percent easy. And I’ll tell you why. In my experience, a lot of Black people in America won’t admit it, but they try to act as if mental issues of any kind are not a big deal. They will talk about people deemed “crazy,” and they won’t get their children help for issues. Now, I’m not calling out my own mother — she had her own problems to deal with — but I’m talking about parents who have autistic sons being told to make their kid pass as “normal” if he can talk and communicate and assuming he won’t need help when he’s older.
To me that’s the worst thing a parent of any color can do to their child. Not getting them help can make adult life much more difficult.
Because I was always masking and pretending to be “normal” when I was growing up, it took me getting into a relationship to realize that I was different again. I don’t understand a lot of social things. I don’t view the world in a similar fashion to people who are not on the autism spectrum. I look at things in my own quirky way. I’m here writing this because I want people to know one thing: people on the autism spectrum come in different colors. In some Black communities, they go so far as to say only white people are autistic. They don’t know what it means to be autistic either. My significant other sees my autism as a personality thing and not a disorder or disability.
I wrote this for all the Black people out there, and people of color who are autistic but don’t get much help or support for it. You’re not alone. There are plenty of us out here. You are one in a million, and at the same time, you’re awesome. Keep on going, friends.
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Thinkstock photo by m-imagephotography.