Baby Steps in the Right Direction

So, I watched an episode of “God Friended Me.” It involved a woman and her autistic son. I believe the portrayal of the autistic son was realistic, albeit there were several stereotypes I have to point out.  

Let me say, first of all, that I liked the casting of the family. The actors were black. Personally, I do not see enough diversity in the casting of autistic people, especially since people tend to think we all are white males who look and act like Sheldon Cooper. We’re not clones; Hollywood and Television City tends not to see that for the most part. Personally, I want more diversity in autism portrayals.  

So, let’s talk about some stereotypes. The first stereotype I came across was that the child was nonverbal. I know nonverbal autistic types exist. The truth is, most of us are verbal – quite verbal in some cases, but I digress. It’s mostly a stereotype. A second stereotype is that the child has extraordinary talent – a savant trait, if you will. Now, it was not explicitly named, though it was heavily implied. I don’t know how many of us have a real savant trait, but I hear it’s not the majority. Finally, there seemed to be a sort of “magic key” stereotype that also creeps into many portrayals of mental illness as well. Why do they do the “magic key” thing anyway? Most of the time, it does not work. 

Maybe I’m being too hard on stereotypes. The actor was not portraying an autistic meltdown, for example, and the child was finding his own way to communicate, which is often a foray into more traditional avenues of communication, such as the child’s smile.  Maybe having one or two stereotypical behaviors helps identify the character, as long as there is truth to them; the lack of empathy stereotype is wrong and harmful, though. It may be some time before we get a real, authentic portrayal that offends few.  

After saying all this, I still believe “God Friended Me” took steps in the right direction.

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The Problem with Comparisons

An autistic person of color recently brought up a really valid point: many times, when persons of color bring up racism in the world, and even in autistic circles, many white people come up with “But you can’t condemn us! We’re LESS RACIST than neurotypicals!” or some other self-gratifying comparison. Here’s the problem with comparisons: they expose that you’re still affected by the same thing as the person you’re distancing yourself from! If you’re “less racist,” you’re still racist. If you’re “more open-minded,” that doesn’t mean your mind is completely open. You can’t excuse yourself from improvement. Just because you’re ahead of somebody in the race, it does not mean you are at the finish line. Self-improvement and tolerance are marathons, not the long jump. There is still work that needs to be done. Hitler was and is not the only Nazi, David Duke is not the only member of the Ku Klux Klan.

Race and Music

Something that grinds my gears is the notion that race decides your musical tastes. Some people have it in their heads that if you’re black you must listen to this music and if you’re white, you must listen to that music. If you ask me, that notion is ridiculous. There are race-crossing musicians appearing all the time. Eminem, Darius Rucker, In Living Color, Killswitch Engage’s lead singer, Sevendust’s lead singer, the list goes on and on. Maybe my opinion is more popular than I think, but I am stating that when a person likes a certain genre of music, they ought to be given free rein to explore and develop their talent to fit said genre. I grew up in the 1990s. I liked En Vogue and TLC as much as I liked Nirvana. “Free Your Mind” helped me challenge my views of many different types of people. Even back then, I got the feeling that this notion of race deciding musical taste was creeping into society. As I said before, just ridiculous.  

Ten Things that Grind my Gears

  1. The whole treatment of Meg Griffin.
  2. Having to borrow a title from a show that treats their teen daughter like feces.
  3. The fact that I have to hide the fact that my very nice upstairs neighbor is black because some very powerful white people assume she is some kind of criminal.
  4. The fact that I am forty and only qualified to work in a fast food joint because I only have an Associate Degree.
  5. People who go swimming in pubic pools when they don’t feel well. Stay home and get well!
  6. The fact that I have to justify my autism diagnosis because I am not Sheldon Cooper, Raymond “Rain Man” Babbitt, or some other white male whose weird is life-throttling.
  7. The fact that I have yet to see an autistic girl who likes assumed girly things on T.V.
  8. That most of the autistic people in media are white, male and otherwise of a privileged class.
  9. That these stereotypes throttle non-white, non-male autistic people from being believed.
  10. That I am even having to mention these in the 21st Century.

A Little Primer on Cinco de Mayo

Maybe I should keep quiet about Cinco de Mayo, but I really want to help bring about the truth in the celebration. So that’s what motivates me.

Most people in the United States use May 5th to down Margaritas or Mexican beers and get sloppy drunk – and throw those drinks back up – but as I’ve recently learned, that’s not the real reason to celebrate. As a person who chooses sobriety on the daily, I decided to learn the real reason behind this holiday that is NOT Mexico’s Independence Day. (You’re thinking of September 16 for that one.) What makes Cinco de Mayo so important is that it is a day in which Mexico contributes to the outcome of the USA’s Civil War.  

 In 1862, when this all happened, the Union Navy had the Confederates in a naval blockade. The cotton (and other things) of the South was not getting to places like France, who decided to try and set up a place to bypass the blockade and get their all-important cotton. They chose Puebla, which turned out to be a bad idea. The residents of Puebla were not to be pushed around, defeating the French there, and contributing to the eventual Union victory of the US Civil War. If you want to celebrate Cinco de Mayo in Mexico, you’ll have to travel to Puebla, because that’s probably the only place they celebrate Cinco de Mayo anyway.

 So, in brief, Cinco de Mayo is really a US holiday to celebrate the major contributions of Mexico to the USA. I have no problem celebrating that – sober. I don’t like being drunk anyway.

Cartoon Women

Why do people need to act and believe their cartoons?  Cartoons are what happens when people believe their stereotypes. 

Here’s the problem with stereotypes: most people believe them, at least secretly.  

Here is an example: A later episode of What Not to Wear featured a woman who dressed so feminine, she acted like a cartoon. Now this is an extreme example, but it is very close to stereotypes regarding women. A giant beehive, tons of bubblegum makeup, strands of pearls, and super-high heels.  

Another example? Willie, a character in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. A most annoying and ingratiating character, yes, but she seems little more than a bundle of stereotypes. I’m not laying the blame at Capshaw’s feet, though. She is among a class of people who can portray anyone. The character was written stereotypically, the damsel in distress. Well, the damsel in distress was largely out of fashion by the 1980s, thanks to the introduction of Princess Leia and other more participatory lead women. Most people dislike the character of Willie, and she is counted among the most annoying characters ever put to film. 

My point about bringing up the damsel in distress, and the character of What Not to Wear, are that these women are literally cartoons of femininity. The problem with cartoons is, most people believe them. They are detrimental to things like peace, love and understanding. I brought up feminine stereotypes because they are ones I am closest to, but here’s a good example of detriment: How many persons of color have been followed in a store because the people who work there think the person of color is an automatic thief? How about all the women who have been denied their autism diagnosis simply because they are women? There’s the “aggressive, savage” black person, the “hysterical” Hispanic, and the “math genius-ninja” Asian. Sure, there are a few people who fit the stereotype, but most of them do not. Let me break it down: Who is going to listen to someone “hysterical”? Who is going to stock up on guns to protect themselves from the “aggressive savage”? Most people are fighting the cartoon version of their kind daily.  

Why can’t people be real?

A Short Ditty about Dr. King

What can I say about the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.? How he championed nonviolence? How his struggles for the black people and others spurs my own civil rights struggle? (Yes, as an autistic, and a woman, I struggle for love, acceptance and civil rights.) Yes, I can say a lot about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. And his legacy, but I feel that others can do it much better than I can.  So I will let them.