Ways to support Black members of the autistic community


On May 25, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a Black man named George Floyd was murdered by White Minneapolis police officer Derrick Chauvin, as a result of Chauvin pressing his knee against Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds while Floyd was handcuffed and lying face down in the street. In the wake of Floyd’s death, massive protests have taken place both domestically and internationally, calling for police accountability and justice for the Black community.

An overlooked demographic during these protests has been Black members of the autistic community. According to a 2018 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), autism is 1.1 times more likely to be found in White children compared to Black children. The same study finds that Black children are frequently both misdiagnosed or undiagnosed as a result of stigma, income restriction and inadequate healthcare access.

Close-up of a Black and Indigenous austistic non-binary person using a tangle stim toy.  Photo in the    public domain

Close-up of a Black and Indigenous austistic non-binary person using a tangle stim toy. Photo in the public domain

Color of Autism is a group working to bring awareness to the Black autistic community. Founded in 2009 by Camille Proctor, the foundation assists and educates African American families with autistic children and promotes the correction of disparities in treatment and support for African American members of the autistic community. 

“I founded an organization so that I can help families get access to services,” Proctor said. “I also encourage parents that after they go through the whole early intervention process and they find the right therapy for their family, they also have to realize that their children are people.”

The organization is based outside of Detroit, Michigan and the majority of donations go to programming that includes parent training programs. The programs help families identify signs of autism in young children, with the goal of early intervention and helping individuals successfully transition into adulthood. 

There are numerous ways to support those in the Black autistic community at this time. 

If you attend a protest and are with a member of the autistic community (or are one yourself), establish a meeting place in the event that a member of your party gets lost. Know the area you are protesting in and check the optics on the area for safety concerns such as traffic flow and planned counter-protesters. Additionally, and as always, maintain a safe distance from those around you and wear the appropriate protective gear for the ongoing pandemic. 

Donating to groups like the Equal Justice Initiative and Color of Autism is a way to support the community via organizations who specifically focus on the fight for equality. Founded in 1989 in Montgomery, Alabama, the Equal Justice Initiative represents those who have faced wrongful conviction or were denied a fair trial as a result of system oppression and racism. 

When a Black autistic individual shares their experience, whether about law enforcement specifically or more generally, listen. Amplify Black autistic voices on social media and familiarize yourself with Black autistic narratives by consuming art, culture and media by Black autistic creators. 

For White members of the autistic community like myself, understand that though your life may be challenging, Black members of our community suffer at the hands of systemic racism every single day. By acknowledging the inherent injustice of racial privilege and working to end it, you show your support for those in the Black autistic community. 

Ian Ward is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at ian.ward@uconn.edu.

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