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  • Seema


I interviewed a 50-year-old, White, nonbinary individual who had been diagnosed with autism in their adulthood. They grew up in a rural town in the middle of the country, Here were some of their thoughts:

I thought of a world where somebody could say, "This hurts me, this causes me pain," and instead of reacting the other person would say, "I'm listening, I hear you," and take the other person's hand. That's what I thought of when I saw the prompt, imagine a U.S. without racism.

Where I come from, this small town, was not very open to marginalized people. I experienced it in my own ways because of who I am. It was torture. I couldn't leave the house without being made fun of or threatened. I couldn't walk down the street by myself. The cops in town would be, "What are you doing, you freak." My best friend. The real first experience that hit me, where I kind of understood what it [racism] was -- because of my autism I don't read social cues well -- I remember playing with my best friend on the front yard... the next door neighbor who just moved in came out from his porch and watched us for a while and screamed out, "Why are you playing with that little n-word." I didn't know what it meant but I could see my friend's face - it felt like everything just drained out of him. He was crying, he hopped up and ran home. A couple months later they moved. That was where I first thought, or it dawned on me that this exists - in a child's way. I knew it was hurtful. I didn't understand it.

I understand abuse from my childhood - I was physically and sexually abused as a child. When I hear about racism, it is abuse. Racism is just abuse.

My mother completely hated herself. You could tell, and it was directed outward, particularly at me, in the form of all kinds of abuse. And I don't know, because she wouldn't say, she had really bad feelings about her own mother. Her mother told her once that she never wanted kids, and my mother said, "well that says everything." It is a legacy, self-hate. I attach it to abuse because it is abuse. Abuse runs in cycles in families and racism is abuse. So it makes sense to me that racism is a cycle that is still continuing. The only way it ever stops in terms of family and abuse is when a person actually decides to look at those things and stop it, "I'm not going to repeat this, I'm not going to repeat this." I don't know if it's simplistic to say... if we could just look at racism and call it as it is - it's abuse - and do what we do when we treat people for abuse. It's therapeutic. There are ways to deal with abuse and move on. That may be a little pie in the sky. If you had asked me when I was young, I'd say absolutely not.

We have to be more mature. I think there is a maturity problem. When you react rather than listen and respond that seems incredibly immature to me. We need to grow up.

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