If you are an allistic person who claims to be an ally to autistic people, you should celebrate Greta Thunberg becoming TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year. You should use the privilege you have because of the way social communication favors your neurotype to defend her against ableist insults.
But, you should still support other autistic people, even if they cannot do what she did. It is important to remember that Greta’s award as Person of the Year is contingent on allistic people’s approval.
As long as society is constructed against us, some of us will never have access to the kind of success Greta Thunberg has, and you should show just as much support to those autistic people who are not standing in the global spotlight.
Support those who cannot do what Greta did because they are unable to speak in ways that neurotypicals find pleasant, or because they do not speak orally at all.
Support those who live in poverty and have to take a job when they are Greta’s age or younger to keep their family alive and don’t have the privilege to travel the world.
Support those whose voices are marginalized because of racism, and remember that as wonderful as Greta is, she is still a white person born in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. She has never experienced racism, colonialism, or genocide.
Remember that autistic people have been doing what Greta is doing for centuries— bucking the status quo— and it has often resulted in them being stoned, burned at the stake, crucified, exiled, jailed, beaten, and enslaved. The difference is not in anything Greta is doing differently from other autistics, but in how non-autistics are receiving her.
Support those of us who have physical illnesses that would prevent us from traveling and engaging in public activism.
Support those of us whose families do not accept us as Greta’s family accepted her for who she is.
And above all, support all autistic people who for whatever reason, are not what allistics define as “productive.” Greta’s activism does serve a productive end for allistic people – convincing the world to take action on climate change. That is a good goal, and I really hope she succeeds in it, for the sake of humanity’s future survival.
But it is still a productive end that allistics deem valuable. Autistics don’t have to produce in order to be valuable. When you listen to autistic success stories, continue to celebrate them, but know that success is not a precondition for human dignity, which we deserve as much as you do.