Race and Spectrum Disabilities – Discrimination is Everywhere

I recently particpated in an online discussion about how people on the spectrum can face discrimination. Several people in our group are ladies that are of. a different race and raised outside the United States.  One wrote an essay to share her experience.  – Greg 

Dear friends on either side of the “fence”, as someone who has been on both sides, I’d like to share a piece of my mind about the national and world current events. Please bear with me and read all the way to the end of this page.
Although born in Brooklyn, I left this country at the age of 3, missing and shielded from much of the turmoil of the 60s. Hearing the news while overseas, I too used to think “those Black folks” needed to pick themselves up by their bootstraps, “behave” better, and stop committing crimes that landed them in prison. In fact, even when experiencing obvious racism, I mostly denied it.  Then I found myself back in the US raising 2 black children, mostly in Upstate NY. 
My eyes are pried open: I saw my sweet naïve son called names and followed by store clerks when I sent him to buy while none of his white friends were scrutinized, I learned that restaurant waitresses refused to serve my trusting and idealistic daughter while her white friends were quickly served, I froze in shock while a AAA truck driver scornfully addressed my husband and refused to bring our car home, I wondered why police officers were called to my neighborhood and asked my children what they we were doing in our driveway, and I cringed as real estate agents made disdainful comments upon finding out we were the ones purchasing the house. One of the most confusing surprises was realizing how many seemed OK with people of color as long as they had subordinate roles yet felt threatened and angered whenever one of us demonstrated more intellectual abilities, financial stability or leadership positions than them. I could go on and share more or less obvious forms of racism I’ve witnessed here in the US but I think you get it.  
Processing: while remaining hopeful, I began praying for the safety of the men in my life, including my father who is a US veteran; not for their safety from accidents but from a system skewed against them and from overzealous gun-owning citizens. To give my children a better chance at life, I opted to home-school. I wanted them to know what I’ve always known growing up in other countries: that Blacks are beautiful, wise, smart, kind, clean and honest people; and that skin color is like eye and hair color. Yet, I struggled and often paid high prices to find educational material that conveyed these messages.  The more I learned, the more I understood how systemic and planned the cruelty and injustice towards people who look like my brothers, sisters, spouse and children are.  While rules existed, way too many loopholes made these useless, only helping to convey a false sense of justice and veiling the reality most Blacks in this country face. 
My solution: I began buying as much “Black-owned” as I could afford, knowing that those businesses stood little chance of being around for long (it turned out to be true in several cases). I also actively educated my ignorant clueless self about the history of Blacks and “Grey” in America – listening to those who grew up in this country and learning from any reliable source I could find (“grey” is any combination of “white” and “black”, neither one of which is a real skin color). 
White Americans who are my heroes: several of my “teachers” happen to be brave white Americans who were upset at the injustices and spoke up. Shunning an alternative peaceful and easy life, they chose to get out of their comfort zone to give others who didn’t look like them a chance. They refused to look the other way or feign ignorance, and instead actively fought the evil and unjust laws used to feed the “hazy” slavery many espouse out of greed and need to control.  I cannot thank them enough for writing, teaching, sharing, sponsoring in spite of the troubles they faced. On the other hand, I feel sad for the other kind-hearted whites and “grey” folks who have been misjudged and caught in the middle because of their skin color or because they didn’t quite get it at first attempt. Please don’t give up! And please share your perspective too. Yes, your trauma is real even if that of victims of lifelong racism seems more “legitimate”. And please educate yourself about Black history/reality: you’re more likely to be successful. If you claim to follow Christ, the Bible is replete with strong language from God clearly stating he expects you to actively stand up for the less fortunate. 
If you think you’re not ___ist, think again!  As a result of my travels, I learned early in life that all peoples have implicit biases. I’m glad that it has finally been proven scientifically: independently of gender, color, political or religious creed, we ALL unconsciously create stereotypes; we absorb messages (often subliminal) around us and unknowingly draw conclusions. These go far beyond color and ethnicity. In other words, there is one group or one person out there that each one of us is unconsciously biased against and – given the opportunity, will tend to treat unfairly.  Period.  No exceptions! Needless to say, this knowledge should lead us ALL to a humble and continuous self-introspection and distrust of our natural impulses. May we opt to stop dismissing others’ felt traumatic realities just because we can’t relate and show empathy for those on the other side of the fence. Let’s be the bridge-builders we were called to be!  

The Ranch in Nunnelly, Tennessee

Two years into my marriage my wife was living in Idaho due to a calling from God. I was continuing with with the stress and anxiety issues around my marriage. I went into treatment to have a break from the stress that I was receiving from my wife. She was pressuring me to buy a house and continually nagged me about not having a job. The treatment was therapy with animals at The Ranch. I found working with animals far more rewarding and productive than I did with years of talk therapy. My favorite horse was one named Salt.  We worked on boundaries. I learned how to ride a horse. I learned how to trust another person on a horse. I learned about push and pull in relationships with a mule named Albert. I lived in the Spring House, which was an all male home. I enjoyed the community and having meals together. It was nice to wake up in the morning and view the ranch next door. I never knew cattle would start talking when their food was not on time. We were exposed to adventure day, meditation,12 step meetings in town, and spiritual practice. And good country views. It was one of the best investments I made in my life. I would love to go back today for a refresher because it is very easy to fall back into old patterns. I was told I am a co-dependent in treatment. I learned about borderline personality disorder. Asbergers males do have the tendency to be in abusive relationships like I was. What attracted my ex wife to me was my natural nature of being kind. Since treatment I have had to struggle with my kind nature and prevent myself from being taken advantage of by people.   It is hard to just be me some days.   

Career Choices

As I child and teenager I never really explored my interests to see if they could have developed into a way to support myself. Being in a boarding school I helped out in the kitchen and helped clean the school on the weekend when other kids went home. I wanted to become a priest or a police officer as a kid. 
As a teenager I just did the typical retail and fast food jobs. Over the years my mother felt I should learn a trade, become a forest ranger or attend the merchant marine academy to work on a ship. A professional did some testing on me that suggested learning a trade, otherwise I would be subject to a lifetime of low wage jobs. At the time I wanted to attend college and was a bit hardheaded. Yet I felt I may not be smart enough for the merchant marine academy or go to college to be a forest ranger due to the science courses needed. Some of my testing after being in the workforce showed the following areas would be good matches:  outdoors technology, science skilled, protective service, medical billing and coding. I value orderliness, clear directions, and efficiency in my work settings.  My profile indicated that I enjoy structure as well as repetition of tasks to work at optimum performance levels and master assignments. I also value settings which includes social interaction. I read a book called Employment for Individuals with NVLD. Some of the careers the book suggested were library science, bank teller, college professor, medical information tech, and vet tech.  
Knowing what I know now I would have made an application to the merchant marine academy to see what that would have brought. Living on a Semester at Sea ship for almost 4 months showed me how well I did on the ocean. Or, I would have done the Junior College route and learned a trade or received technical training. I always wanted to be an expert at something.