Some of the horrifying racist and ableist comments I’ve received since writing about the case of Matthew Rushin, or those I’ve seen on the internet, or the strongly-worded emails I have received accused me — in strong language— of bias.
So in full disclosure, I will say without hesitation that yes, I am biased. I’m autistic, my husband is, my child is. Other family members and my closest friends are autistic. The organization I founded is full of wonderful, amazing autistic people.
Let’s examine the risks of my bias.
My bias puts me at risk of engaging in activism for people who are misunderstood. My bias puts me at risk of seeing people as they are– as humans beyond the pathologies the world attaches to them and the stereotypes that come with those.
My bias positions me to understand how a mother feels every time a young autistic adult or child is dehumanized, brutalized, or murdered by people who think autistics are better off dead.
My bias allows me to conceive of autistic people as a pleasure to interact with, as wise, wonderful, insightful, principled people capable of folly but not destined for it.
My bias affords me the vantage point of seeing autistic people as full of potential and deserving of fundamental, inalienable human rights.
My bias allows me to more fully understand the experiences of autistic people, autistic communication, and the internal factors that drive their external behaviors.
My bias allows me to identify with people who are harmed by those who hate them for being autistic. My bias allows me to see that just because someone can do math and make a sandwich, that doesn’t mean they don’t also have PTSD or seizures.
My bias predisposes me to caring about the emotional well being of autistic people and otherwise marginalized people.
My bias means I’m more likely to presume innocence until guilt is proven.
Now let’s examine your bias
Your bias has risks, too.
Your bias makes you feel like it’s okay to leave a diatribe full of barbed bigotry without having any education on a topic or even a surface level understanding of the basic facts.
Your bias allows you to believe the justice system works equally for everyone, and that “this has nothing to do with race or autism.”
Your bias allows you to think of autism as a “mild” or “severe” dichotomy, and to think of speech and math ability as the degree to which disability matters.
Your bias is a gift you give yourself, like a spa day or retail therapy, so that you can pamper your ego.
Your bias allows you to see me as inferior, call me a “retard,” tell me to kill myself, to quit my non-paying job, to remove “inclusion” from my profile, to see myself as having no integrity.
Your bias gives you the privilege to tell me that all of my life’s hard work, credentials, insights, and lived experience are meaningless when compared to your experience of having an autistic relative or neighbor who is autistic.
Your bias allows you to pass immediate judgement on Matthew Rushin without looking at or care for any of the facts, to presume guilt based on a mugshot and a clickbait headline.
Your bias allows you to feel entitled to identify with people you’ve never met and know nothing about before you’d ever take the time or invest the energy to even be curious about the facts.
Your bias allows you to say that the solution is to have “a place to put the autistic,” like Matthew should just be locked in an asylum by default, and to ignore that same bias is what entitles people to believe Matthew deserves by default to be locked in a prison.
I’ve admitted my bias. Now will you admit yours?
I imagine not.
To read more about Matthew Rushin’s case and for ideas about how to help, visit FreeMatthewRushin.com