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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Writer/Curator/Founder of The Autism Acceptance Project. Contributing Author to Between Interruptions: Thirty Women Tell the Truth About Motherhood, and Concepts of Normality by Wendy Lawson, and soon to be published Gravity Pulls You In. Writing my own book. Lecturer on autism and the media and parenting. Current graduate student Critical Disability Studies and most importantly, mother of Adam -- a new and emerging writer.

“There is no hope unmingled with fear, and no fear unmingled with hope.” -- Baruch Spinoza

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


If You Hate the Roots

You can't hate the roots of the tree and not hate the tree -- Malcom X

No one had a greater impact on the cultural consciousness of African-Americans during the second half of the 20th century than Malcolm X. More than anyone else he revolutionized the black mind, transforming docile Negroes and self-effacing colored people into proud blacks and self-confident African-Americans. Civil rights activists became Black Power militants and declared, "It's nation time." Preachers and religious scholars created a black theology and proclaimed God as liberator and Jesus Christ as black. College and university students demanded and won black studies. Poets, playwrights, musicians, painters and other artists created a new black aesthetics and ardently proclaimed that "black is beautiful."

No area of the African-American community escaped Malcolm's influence. The mainstream black leaders who dismissed him as a rabble-rouser today embrace his cultural philosophy and urge blacks to love themselves first before they even think about loving others. No one loved blacks more than Malcolm nor taught us more about ourselves. Before Malcolm most blacks wanted nothing to do with Africa. But he taught us that "you can't hate the roots of the tree and not hate the tree; you can't hate your origin and not end up hating yourself; you can't hate Africa and not hate yourself." A simple, profound truth; one that blacks needed (and still need) to hear. And no one said it as effectively as Malcolm X.
(By James M. Cone)

As I referred to in The Learning Curve of Acceptance, there are different voices in the autism advocacy movement. I think Malcom X's statement about roots sums it up for the autism rights movement as well. In this X equals Y statement, you "hate" your child if you hate autism. I know many parents are really struggling with this concept. Many parents struggle with the disconnect between autism as illness, and autism as a way of being. Parents struggle with figuring out autism, and coming to accepting it. I empathize with their struggle. But I also empathize with autistic people who feel the same way as many blacks did. Just like the black rights movement, there are mainstream activists and militant ones. Yet, what strikes me most is the reverbant voices of the Malcom X's of the world, and just how potent their messages are, even they are hard pills to swallow.

As I said before, parents aren't always at fault. Yet, parents and organizations have to be responsible in how we talk about and present autism. Further, this negative talk effects the way autistic people may view themselves. We are fed bad information by media sources. These messages do not talk about the joy of autism, only the struggle.

Let the voices rise. Let time pass and tell us, we are different, but so very much the same.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've struggled for some time with this very concept. Eventually, I had to realize that there was no defining point where autism ended and my son began. If I was going to be able to fully love and accept my son, I had to fully love and accept his quirks and stims.

9:21 PM  
Blogger Estee Klar-Wolfond said...

It is our capacity to not fully understand, isn't it? Our ideas of normal, things that are different that may frighten us. It is our detrimental behaviour and the lives of those who are so-caled "different" are indeed so deeply affected by this.

The bridge is accepting all of humanity. The divide is the idea that autism is a medical condition.

If we value the idea of acceptance, and think out of the autism media soap-box, then we come to see how simple this all really is. Acceptance is open, unencumbered, unconditional.

6:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Loved reading this post, excellent. - Amy Nelson.

11:07 AM  
Anonymous Vidya Ganesh said...

This is an excellent, thought provoking post. I enjoyed every line of it. Thanks.

7:09 AM  

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