The Revolution Needs All Kinds of Minds: on Slacktivism and Ableism

photoshopped blue and white disabled sign with a facebook anger react and a Russian hat as its head with the hammer and sickle on its chest and spoons in its hand

Delightful picture from Bobby Whittenberg, the spoons come from Spoon Theory (communism is my political ideology but not necessarily any other writers that may come on here, a good friend made the picture)

(As I am punning off of her The World Needs All Types of Minds speech, I would feel remiss if I didn’t also call attention to the issues with her, especially when most people think she’s an excellent authority…the articles here, here, and here cover that in detail. If you are a disability activist and want to fight back I’d recommend Resisting Fascism While Autistic, Disabled, Housebound, or Otherwise Human)

A couple of days ago something truly beautiful happened.

On the campus of UC Berkeley, people rose up against Milo Yiannopoulos, a gay Nazi (I call him a flaming Nazi, he’s a terrible human being) who, when allowed to come to a campus in Milwaukee outed and shamed a trans student.

The students said never again, rose up and took the streets (watch the beautiful live video here and an on the ground account here), rose on wings of fire and broken glass to defy the hatred that Milo represents (and by doing so apparently saved undocumented immigrants from being outed).

This was marvelous, but I know for a fact that I wouldn’t be there. I would not be anywhere near the protests. I honestly would probably be inside with my headphones on, covering my ears while watching the tv or on my computer.

Why is this? I’m autistic with sensory overload issues, and despite the fact that the protest was important, being outside with that hell would probably leave me in meltdown. In fact, I can’t handle phone calls either, both of which are considered traditional activism.

In fact, most of what I actually can do is what is called slacktivism. I can text, share articles, press the like button, and hopefully write, but I’m unable to do traditional activism without severe mental stress.

That doesn’t make my convictions or actions less valid, however.

While my I will not fade article was specifically about my journey, it does represent a current trend. The disability community is rallying against Trump, and it’s been a beauty to behold as my community rises against the regime, standing for our kin under this new threat.

However, the issue remains that our ways and abilities are vastly different from our activist peers. There’s an honest fear that the ways we can act aren’t going to be considered as valid because they don’t fall into the set mold of True Activism™.

However, the revolution needs all kinds of minds. The playing field has changed, and will change even more. We need people of all different skills and abilities, and if those abilities are different than the norm or we don’t have the ability to do the norm, that’s not a bad thing. What would be wrong is shutting us down if we end up acting in a way that’s different from you. We’re extremely diverse in our capabilities and we’re doing the best we can…our lives are on the line, after all. Just because you’re capable of other things doesn’t make what we can do less valid.

Refuting Respectability: The Amorality and Tyranny of Respectability Politics

“Our futures burn in red horizons
Ashes scattered in winds of change
Casualty numbers are rising
Now it’s time to raise the stakes
We’re meant for something more
Than living just to put food on our plates
I can’t help but wonder
Why should we participate?”

The First Drop, Rise Against

In both By our side or out of our way and A Red Rage #RedInstead I mentioned allies, how I refuse conditional ones and don’t want the ones who I can alienate.

However, this concept goes far beyond just me and deserves its own article, as it’s a concept forced upon all Outcast activists, that we’re all supposed to fight while simultaneously not being offensive in any way, shape, or form. We need to be respectable and act with dignity and are shamed if we don’t. The term in the title is for when our communities internalize this and police ourselves within this norm.

This isn’t just an attitude that is told by allies but also is the narrative our society and the media use. We’re told to accept small gains and not push too hard, told that we’re hurting our cause, and quite often (especially to POC activists) a strawman of MLK is used as a paragon of unobjectionable nonviolence, ignoring his thoughts on capitalism, riots, and the white moderates who are misquoting him.

The level of pressure to be respectable is compounded by racism and sexism, experiences that I have the privilege to not have to handle in my day to day life.

First off, as I mentioned in On wings of fire and broken glass we shall rise: #DisruptJ20, thanks to our capitalist system which values property over people, the only way that the media has ever paid attention to a protest is if some destruction happens, forcing people to break something to make society care about their lost lives, a situation which MLK much more eloquently spoke about in the quote that “a riot is the language of the unheard” comes from (in which he says one of the things unheard is “that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.” He also called riots and looting understandable. The reason that I’m going on about this is that, as a minority activist himself, I find it bitterly ironic and wrong that a man who repeatedly called out white society and white moderates for creating an environment that makes this sort of violence just and necessary is being used by white moderates to shame the people he fought for.)

But secondly, these causes, autistics fighting for acceptance, black activists fighting against a system that allows cops to kill them with barely any consequences, and any other Outcast fighting to be recognized as equal and deserving to be treated as valid and human, are us fighting fights that shouldn’t have to be fought against grave injustices that are embedded in our society and should be joined by all regardless of how we present ourselves to you or cater to you.

It’s amoral to actually tell people, “Yes, we know your people are being killed and dehumanized, but in order for us to care you need to make us feel good about it.”

It’s tyrannical to enforce a system that won’t even pretend to give a fuck about our deaths and suffering until we present ourselves in a way that is deemed deserving of respect.

It’s dehumanizing in itself because the people who do this are literally expecting us to value their comfort over our lives, which is telling us that you value our humanity so little that you need us to cater to what makes you feel good in order to recognize that just maybe it’s worth fighting for.

When it comes to us who are fighting to be treated as human, as equal to all, to not be dehumanized or killed or be hated or oppressed for what we are by this unjust society, we should not have to use a certain tone, dress a certain way (this goes for trans people as well, they should not be forced to pass as their gender in order for you to recognize them for who they are), behave in a certain manner, be polite or academic or anything, the fact that we’re your fellow human beings and don’t deserve to be going through this hell should be enough for you to stand by our side.

And, if it isn’t, if you seriously need more than that, if these grave injustices aren’t enough for you to stand by our side against them, that says a lot more about your morality than it says anything about us.

Especially now, in this new regime.

We are being more attacked by this system than ever before, and we need to fight back so much harder. Frankly, Outcast or not this system should be enough for you to stand up and fight back, considering that the threats that this new era bring affect so much more than minorities. But if you aren’t, at least be a decent human being and stand by our side in our fight. I will not fade into respectability and accept all the hells I mentioned in A Red Rage with a smile on my face and a polite tone. We’re fighting back because we don’t have the choice to do otherwise, and you should think that these injustices deserve to be warred against without politeness or respectability of any sort. And if your moral convictions are so weak that you can’t see beyond your own comfort to realize that just maybe you should fight by our side, if you’re content to let oppression happen if we don’t make sure to make you happy in our fight against it, your inaction supports the system that needs to be fought against and you’re choosing the oppressors over us. By our side or out of our way, pick one, don’t claim to support us or be an ally if you can’t stand against injustice without us holding your hand. There is nothing helpful about you if our tone can stop you from caring about whether or not we should be treated like humans. If you are willing to say, “Yes I’ll care about your oppression but only if you’re nice to me,” you have picked your side, and it’s not ours.

A Red Rage #RedInstead

“We are the rust upon your gears
We are the insects in your ears
We crawl, we crawl all over you
We sow seeds to see us through
Our days are precious and so few
We all reap what we are due
Under this sky no longer blue
We bring the dawn long overdue
We crawl, we crawl, we crawl all over you”

Re-Education (Through Labor), Rise Against

(Most articles linked in this piece are extremely brutal first-hand stories from autistics, pointing out horrors that are happening today. If you really believe that we don’t have the right to be angry and that we should accept all of this, read them. If you can read tales of child abuse and sympathy for murderers and still actually think that this doesn’t deserve your opposition, something is wrong with you.)

Last year, I wrote You Have the Choice. It was a couple of days before this month and it started out talking about dreading April.

But now, there is no dread in my heart, only pure rage.

For twelve years, people have been supporting a hate group that seeks to eradicate us from the planet. A group which perpetuates and profits off of stigma against people like myself. As my friend and comrade Neurodivergent K points out in I’m aware of your hate, this is a constant echo in our minds year-round, but this month it’s brought into focus, 30 days of blue lights and puzzle pieces.

This hate and the hell we face goes beyond Autism $peaks. It’s shown by how anytime one of our kin is murdered by their parents the news and society finds sympathy for the murderer not the victim, and is why the main “therapy” for autism is a torment designed to force us into becoming Indistinguishable From Peers (ABA, read stories of the horror from both someone who suffered through it and who once did it, and about its lifelong effects).

People consider us damaged by vaccines (or doctor-inflicted as our Fascist in Chief calls us) and seek to cure us by forcing us to drink bleach or turpentine.

Disabled people are over half of the people shot by police and 60-80% of the incarcerated population (an issue where racism and ableism greatly intersect).

…and we’re supposed to accept this and be nice while it is happening?

Especially now, when the President of the United States hates us and thinks we’re broken?

I refuse to do that any longer.

I ended You Have The Choice with asking people to choose acceptance.

But to quote another song by Rise Against, “I’m done asking, I demand.

Because acceptance of our humanity shouldn’t be something we request, but is a moral obligation.

I can no longer, will no longer be articulate so you don’t have to listen.

To get allies we should not have to be acceptable when the situation is so utterly reprehensible and unacceptable.

We should not have to be kind and nice when we’re being tortured, imprisoned, and killed.

We should not have to change to accommodate the world and what it’s doing to us, people should stand by our side to make the world accommodate us and not be torturing and killing us.

We deserve to be angry, we deserve to hurt, and we deserve to be able to express this rage and pain without being told that we’ll alienate people.

And if and when we do?

Frankly, I’m glad, because the people who can be alienated from assisting us even when all of this horror is happening to us wouldn’t be able to be trusted when we need it the most.

People should stand by us and fight, to erode and break down the gears that keep this system of hatred going until this month is no longer blue, until acceptance of our humanity is something that is commonplace not something that we need to fight constantly for.

I shall keep my anger and fight for a dawn long overdue when this hatred based on how we were born is no longer, because not being angry and not pushing back hard against oppression no matter who I might “alienate” is something that is morally wrong, not just through this hell of a month but onwards.

Will you?


If you want your money to go to an organization that actually supports us, please donate to the Autistic Self Advocacy Network here or the Autism Women’s Network here. Please spread knowledge of how terrible A$ is, we need it.

Rebellious Joy: On Pride Movements

(Dedicated to the trans women of color who made it so Pride month is possible and who are fighting to this day.)

While the article is the same as the one from April, I'm changing the picture to Philly's new pride flag with the black and brown stripes which I feel (though it was unintended) do something to acknowledge the trans women of color who made this month of Pride for queer and trans people possible

While the article is the same as the one from April, I’m changing the picture to Philly’s new pride flag with the black and brown stripes which I feel (though it was unintended) do something to acknowledge the trans women of color who made this month of Pride for queer and trans people possible

The key thing that makes minority pride different from majority pride is that society tells minorities that they should be ashamed of being such. For instance, this month is what many people consider Autism Awareness Month, where people are donating and corporations are going to make partnerships with an organization which had an ad which depicted my neurology as a sinister force that breaks up marriages, bankrupts our families, robs families and children of their dreams, and many other fucked up things (back when I wrote autism stuff I wrote this article on autism acceptance, our movement this month). Autism $peaks controls the narrative of autism, even Trump will be lighting the White House up blue (though nobody is surprised considering that he also thinks we’re broken).

A$ wants us down, to be ashamed and feel like we should be cured. Being proud of being autistic in the face of that narrative which is a constant bombardment year round but becomes the focus this month is total defiance.

For minorities, being out and proud of ourselves can actually be extremely dangerous as well. Yesterday was Trans Day of Visibility, but many of my trans friends talked about how being visible is a privilege, a fact that the murder rates of trans people show. In a much lesser effect I was personally targeted by someone for my internet activism with a video (much much much lesser, the video was utterly ineffectual as were the two after it which had screenshots of my page, but it did make me realize that if he had a larger audience or I had more personal information I would be fucked).

And of course, being proud and open about who we are always gets people running to shut us down and tell us to stop. There’s always someone there to ask why not straight pride, why not white or men’s history month (as someone who studies ancient cultures and some historical stuff, I can tell you that most history is about and written by white men so having 30 days where we put some effort in recognizing the history of people who aren’t that is hardly much to ask). These people are coming to in effect silence our voices, not allowing us to speak and be proud of ourselves by asking when we do it (and only when we do it, it’s always a refutation never starting it themselves, making it obvious that their point isn’t to have pride in themselves but to silence us) why can’t they do it as well.

But if you’re having pride in being the majority, it doesn’t have those aspects. Being proud of being white or straight and making movements of such doesn’t have any rebellion in it, any defiance, but is taking pride in your privilege in this system. It’s taking pride in that which gives you power over us based on how this structure of oppression works, and that’s what makes it so much of a problem. We’re doing it as an act of defiance claiming what makes us devalued by the system and rebelling against that which tries to keep us down, while those who take pride in being the majority are celebrating the power they have by doing so.

Right now, standing up is hard. Being proud in the face of such oppressive forces that would rather us be gone is making trying to exist a challenge. But I feel like now it’s more important than ever to stand and be ourselves, be defiant in the face of oppression if we can, especially because there are so many who can’t safely. The need to call for acceptance and to make people accept us by being impossible to ignore is ever greater the harder it is, and I don’t have any easy answers on how to do that or how to manage the pushback. To all my fellow Outcast, all I can really say is that I stand by your side. I wish there was more.

Want to actually help autistics? Please donate to The Autistic Self Advocacy Network here