This Autism Awareness Month, Don’t Forget About Black Autistic Women
When you think of autism, a Black face probably does not pop into your head. A grown Black woman’s face almost definitely does not pop into your head. White people are the unofficial face of autism, white boys in particular. Black women are the forgotten community within the autism community. People either don’t know we are here, or they know but choose not to acknowledge us. Why? Because it’s easier to continue to push the narrative that Black women are just angry than to admit that we live with neurodivergent conditions just like other races. It’s easier to say we have “attitude” than to admit we may be struggling. It’s easier to say we are problematic than give us some grace. Black women do not receive the grace that little white boys often get when it comes to autism.
Black children, on average, are diagnosed three years later than their white peers — that is, if they are given a diagnosis at all. Systemic racism plays a big role in that. A Black child and white child can be showcasing the same traits and they will call the Black child bad, ghetto, difficult, and combative while their white peer will be given sympathy. Sympathy will lead to testing which will then lead to answers, then resources to live more comfortably with autism. When I was diagnosed, I wasn’t given any resources. It was like, “OK, yeah, you’re on the spectrum. Here’s some medication. Goodbye.” Any therapies I went to were found through research done by my dad. When white people are diagnosed as children, they are often given direction and resources. I was not given any of those things, again because they do not want to acknowledge that we are here.
There’s an entire community of Black autistic women in the world “hidden” and hidden purposefully, many of whom do not even feel worthy of being seen or heard. I’ve had so many send me messages thanking me for just being me and living as a proud autistic Black woman, unapologetically and loudly. The fact that they don’t feel worthy to live and be their true selves because of the stigma around autism is heartbreaking, and then add being a woman to that and being Black on top of that. Sometimes I want to disappear, but I realized that is when I need to make the most noise.
There’s always someone who will say, “Why do you people always make everything about race?” Well, because most things are about race, and just the fact that you can’t see that proves your privilege. Black autistic women deserve to be seen, heard, celebrated, appreciated, and just simply acknowledged. We are of no less value than others. We have a lot to offer this world if just given a chance. How will the world know what we have to offer if you don’t give us a chance?
That brings me to our Black autistic girls. Imagine being a child… a Black little girl… a little awkward Black girl… and seeing no one that looks like you, acts like you. Don’t our Black autistic little girls deserve to see positive images of themselves? Don’t our little Black autistic girls deserve to know that there are others just like them and they are not alone? They are not freaks, they are not demons, and don’t need to be saved by God from autism. For the record, autistic people don’t need to be saved or healed, autistic people need to be saved from people who think we need to be saved from our autism. Just like you can’t “pray the gay away,” you can’t “pray the autism away.” So again, I ask this Autism Awareness Month, and beyond, please don’t forget about Black autistic women.
a late-diagnosed Black Autistic Woman who lives proudly and unapologetic in my purpose and being, loudly