The Impact of Intersectionality

Kimberlé Crenshaw’s work and insight into intersectionality impacted the world over.

Yet, we still see a lack of authentic understanding that creates barriers for those with marginalised intersectional characteristics.

There are many similarities between overt and covert racism and ableism- societal structures that prevent those of us who are ethnic minorities and disabled from living a fulfilling and meaningful life. I will explore the intersectionality of autism and race and the impact on mental health.

Firstly, medical and academic research is heavily Eurocentric. Therefore professionals will have innate biases, even internalised unconscious beliefs that may not be aware of. This leads to a flaw in treatment, but before that, a hurdle in accessing medical support.

Hidden disabilities like autism are still profoundly misunderstood and target of stereotypes, just like cultures and faiths. In the attempt to become a multicultural society, we lack the critique to question power imbalances and biases. When communication barriers are not addressed for both populations, then who so can we expect the compound barrier to be acknowledged? How autism presents in People of Colour differs from the typical white boy stereotype which leads to schools and health practitioners undermining our experiences and even dismissing our struggles. How do we communicate something that isn’t even tangible to professionals? Let’s not forget the angry or difficult  Black woman label that we get stuck with when we try to be affirmative or challenge perceptions. The consequences are more often than not at the detriment of the service user rather than an improvement for the service provider.

The result of decades of racism is generational racial trauma. This can and will manifest into a lack of confidence to seek help and stand up for one’s rights. Autistics already find identifying and asking for help very difficult, add that to the racial inferiority complex ingrained in one’s mindset, then how do we prosper, or even access care? Recently migrated communities have it worst because of the rise in populist culture in the UK where right-wing narratives have been given too much oxygen. Imagine how many autistic asylum seekers and refugees we need to support and don’t.

That takes me to my next point. The impact of incidents – ones that all of the population are at risk of- is far greater for autistics than neurotypicals. The way we perceive the world which such intensity, coupled with rejection sensitivity hurts our mental health. But then add the layer of race to that. It is known that People of Colour suffer more from multiple deprivations-  abuse, employment, education and medical care barriers. This number is even more disproportionate for Autistics of Colour.- and I don’t even mention gender, gender identity or sexual orientation in this! Depression and anxiety are common results for victims of racial abuse, discrimination and isolation, yet our care providers are unarmed with the empathy and understanding required to provide effective healing support.

Lastly, turning towards the various communities made up of rich cultures and diversity. It’s a sad truth that disability and mental health are still a point of stigma. Identifying hidden disabilities is extremely difficult due to ignorance and arrogance as well as fear of reputation. It is almost like colonisation has left such an inferiority complex in us that we much appear perfect to have value. However, no human can be perfect and we all need to be truthful to ourselves, support our communities and improve our understanding if we want to progress in life. Attributing autism as  bad fortune, ‘evil eye’, black magic, something that will be grown out of, or bad parenting will keep the world from benefitting from amazing Autistic humans who have already contributed to the evolution of civilisation

Life happens to us all, but the outcomes are dependent on one’s characteristics, privilege, and socioeconomic background. Employers, educators, health professionals and government policy all need to account for the disadvantage we, ethnic minority Autistics face, by changing how they operate.

This Is Me

I have always described myself as complicated and difficult to handle.

I found this blog post saved in drafts since August 2021. Maybe I had more to share, but was just too exhausted.

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Our self discovery journey is a very complicated one.

As the Messenger of Allah ﷺ has told us to live in this world like a traveller. Nothing is stationary- our relationships, our situations, our loved ones, and even ourselves.

For those who actively seek self improvement and direction the journey is is even more appreciated.

In the past year, the trauma of being brown, Muslim, female, and an autistic single parent continued. Time and again I was faced with darkness and despair. Is it really that complicated? Why is it so common? A toxic and deadly combination of of sexism, racism and ableism led to more generational trauma being passed on and the unfortunate familiarity of the past returned in front of me.

What most people don’t understand is that experiencing the myriad of abuse directly and indirectly is felt with much more impact by an autist. Another neurotypical woman may well suffer from PTSD and depression from domestic abuse, racism, ableism of another disability, but the neurodivergent woman… ironically isn’t permitted to lift the veil of tsunami of emotions and pain in fear of being labelled deemed out of control, lying, or drama queen. Autistic women are only more prone to abuse, the impact is more damaging and deep.

Which public health service is to give us our justice?

April 2022

In the past months I have continued my journey of painful growth which has been overall beneficial. Turns out I am not the only benefitting from my quest for understanding, but others, both known and unknown to me as well. The feedback is crucial to me because of rejection sensitive dysphoria. I am my own worst critic and mostly feel I have nothing valuable to add to the discussion around neurodiversity.

Since beginning this blog post in August, I got confirmation that I have ADHD as well! It’s really not surprising since between 30 – 80% of autistic population also have ADHD. It explains a lot more to me about my behaviours and brain than what the autism diagnosis did.

I have also since August delivered training on understanding Autism though my intersectional lens. I learned a lot from my co-trainer and ended the course with a more respect from our South Asian audience than I began with.

Turns out being neurodivergent is actually pretty ausome! (yes the spelling is intentional!)

I will be back with more reflection and lessons as I continue this journey called life.

Nobody Believes Me

Being heard is a fundamental aspect of keeping healthy. Mentally as well as physically.

Imagine, you had a gapping wound and the doctor said it’s only your perspective, everything is looking fine to us. How would we as a community react to that?

Yet, so many of autistics, women, people of colour, and God forbid you are all three like me, are left with the trauma and devastating consequences of not being believed.

Gaslighting of the privileged, be it gender, race, position, abled/ allist, has become so common that those with the best intent leave people like us feeling helpless. Why do we need to reassure our self that our perceptions aren’t flawed and they don’t need to revaluate theirs’?

I haven’t written on my blog for some time now and the reason is precisely this. The consequence of schools not taking me seriously about my autistic boys, or the police about the coercive control. And the damage caused by the trusted imam who, after one meeting and phone call with him, dismissed my 16 years of experience of his narcissism.

It doesn’t hurt me that bullies bully. That is a fact of life. What I cannot digest is the lack of care and seriously to their own responsibilities of those with position of power and influence.

For years I told the primary that oldest has additional needs, not being qualified or knowledge to ascertain what they actually were didn’t make a difference because when I did dive in found my own answers, I still didn’t get far for support. And now that history is repeating itself with the youngest at the same primary, I am left with renewed wound, but this time the trajectory already laid out in front.

This episode of Red Table Talk really surfaced a lot of experiences that have led to me always needing to evidence my statements. If you need to prove”, as Dr Raman states, for every little belief or thought, “then you have been gaslighted.”

And that explained my endless emails, documents and questions for reassurance that my perception isn’t flawed. Imagine that being your permanent state of mind. And still I AM NOT BELIEVED.

Many autistics have the need to know every detail, cross referenced multiple times and checked again, on subjects that matter to them. The possibility of rejection is devastating, more so for those like me and my teen who also have rejection sensitive dysphoria which makes us extremely susceptible to gaslighting and easy narcissist victims.

How do we move forward?

The pain of living the consequences of neglect of authorities will never be erased. The approach I have taken is to be well connected with people who do believe me to cater not just for need for constant reassurance, but also to build my army to support me in my battles. This is an unfortunate but vital aspect of social capital that disadvantaged people ironically lack.

I am not believed by authority when I need help, however, that will not dampen by determination. And for that I thank Allah for making me autistic. I am not alone.