I was not born assertive. I worked my way from meek to shouting at a protest. I was born the most mild-mannered person imaginable. If I had not encountered ableism, I would probably have become an academic, taught English or History, and lived out my days without bothering anyone. The story of the route from then to now will become more public as I have the nerve to contemplate new parts. Personal experience is part of the reason I cannot hold my tongue and tolerate prejudiced comments by a pundit or a donation to Autism Speaks. Beyond the visceral response, I will meet prejudice with anything from gentle correction to overt confrontation. What the offender gets varies case-by-case. What I will never do unless critically low on time and spoons, rarely even then, is ignore it. The stakes are too high.
I cannot leave a dehumanizing word alone when a fellow writer, member of my generation, and apparent nice person appears to be loosing his chance at life because he shares my label. The transplant denial seems to touch on stereotypes that autistics are violent. Within twenty-four hours, a new story of an autistic victim of abuse came out. A man was executed despite an obvious intellectual disability because Texas has a definition thereof both cruel and unusual. A spectator at the Olympics was detained by police. They found him suspicious because he did not smile. Parkinson’s has stiffened his facial muscles. If an autistic person or anyone else of stiff or flat affect had been sitting where he was, the same events would have transpired. This is one day’s news.
The ableist word that elicets a lecture from me may not kill anyone, but the idea, made socially acceptable and allowed to enter the decision-making of all manner of authority figures, plays a part in wrongful, preventable deaths. The assumption that there is one acceptable facial expression per situation is not particularly dangerous in and of itself. In the hands of police, it leads to a random spectator dragged away from a race and detained. It ends a few lives, damages the quality of many more, and sends tendrils of pain out through networks of loved ones. It wounds individuals, families, groups of friends, companies, religious institutions, charity organizations, communities, and society. No, I cannot lay off, shut up, leave well enough alone, or mind my own business. Ableism is the concern of everyone it hurts.