Political systems organising our lives are based only on power and force. They do not value care and love, only capital. It means you only fit if you produce and consume. What about autistic people? Is the discrimination against us systemic, specific?
Prejudice, discrimination, and stereotypes are all gathered in the word bias. And yet the definition of bias fluctuates depending on the field of study. It is simply an emotion, conscious or not, to the disadvantage of another person or group of people.
Undoubtedly, these biases exist. We send a few recalcitrant people to training, or we create a dedicated task forces, and that’s it! Only these trainings don’t work, or worse, they have the opposite effect.
Because discrimination is systemic, our political system is generating it. Take the Judge Rotenberg Education Center, in Canton, Massachusetts (US). This backward-facing centre is not discouraged by the law or social convention from punishing heavily – with portable electric shock devices – people with mental health conditions and/or autistic people, mostly people of colour. Because racism and eugenics are the norm. #StopTheShock
Today, the danger is the other, even one’s own reflection in the mirror.
“By focusing on individuals as the primary site for solutions, implicit bias depoliticises gender [and any minority] inequity, shifting focus away from the historical, social, structural, and political contexts in which those inequities are produced and maintained.” The same applies to all discrimination.
What types of discrimination are we talking about? All of them– your physical appearance, skin tone, facial expression, the way you move, your (a)gender(s), the clothes in your wardrobe. And every culture has its history. For each oppression, behind each privilege, there is a discrimination, specific to an identity.
While there was Enlightenment in Europe, there was colonialism. Identity politics has denounced this discrimination based on ethnicity for centuries, before it was first coined thanks to the Combahee River Collective.
How can we put an end to discrimination?
Discrimination is a societal choice, it is political. This culture is global, hegemonic, it is our universality. An intuitive analysis, developed by Suely Rolnik, is the politics of desire.
It says when we face a conflict, we feel more comfortable if we accept the status quo and messaging of this system (i.e being fitter and happier). But not if we stand with oppressed people. This discomfort drives us to perceive the oppressed as undesirable, so that we can live up to the privileges we think we have. According to Rolnik, desire, capital, is not only fed by material resources – as Marxism describes it – but also by life itself, by our lives.
We need to decolonise our desire to feel that human life in all its forms, and biodiversity, must co-exist according to a common imperative: that all humans benefit equally not only from the present, but also from a future on a preserved planet. We can no longer live as by-products of capitalism or any form of avalising power.
A take away about identity politics and intersectionality.
Some of my friends on the left and progressivists are concerned about identity politics. Slavoj Žižek would describe this hesitation as a source of division within the left. But he writes: “True universalists are not those who preach global tolerance of differences and all-encompassing unity, but those who engage in a passionate struggle for the assertion of the Truth which compels them.”
This is exactly what intersectionality is all about! Intersectionality is a demonstration that we need more identity politics. Kimberlé Crenshaw says: “Intersectionality operates as both the observance and analysis of power imbalances, and the tool by which those power imbalances could be eliminated altogether. And the observance of power imbalances, as is so frequently true, is far less controversial than the tool that could eliminate them.” With this lens, we can have all possible views. If we live as if identities do not exist, we will not solve discrimination.
In the last decades, many movements have been extremely creative. Now it’s time to organise. We have enough ideas to converge. But before, one last step. I am listening to what it is to be her, to have melanised skin, to be an autistic person, to be disabled, to be (more) poor. Because we are interdependent, we must leave for a moment our movement, especially our vertical hierarchical organisations. We need to listen more to each other. Otherwise, no action, let alone a paradigm shift, will happen.
Author’s note: I thank the following people for our fruitful discussions and support, although they may not necessarily agree with the whole of this text: Barbara Boustier, Michael Bosley, Patricia Enriquez, Alexander aka Jufru and Jose Sanchez.