In the discussion with another parent that I referred to in my last post, the topic of tone and anger came up. Both my own anger and the tone and anger of adult Autistic advocates. I was going to write about some other aspects of that conversation first, but I’ve been seeing a few conversations online which leave me shaking my head in horror over the use of a person’s tone/anger to dismiss the arguments that they are making–conversation between Autistic advocates and parents of Autistic kids.
So can we talk about tone and anger a little bit?
- Anger has a well rooted and justifiable place in any civil rights movement. Without anger over inequality and injustice, where would any civil rights movement be? Answer, the movement would never have existed. I’ve spent some time racking my brain about any movement in which anger was not the spark and fuel. I’ve come up with zippo.
- Some people seem to want to equate emotion and anger with lack of substance of argument. As if being angry or emotional erase the validity of a person’s argument. Certainly not so. I really liked Chavisory’s blog post on this very topic.
- Anger is not the equivalent of dwelling in negativity or inaction.
- Criticizing how Autistic people communicate is extremely offensive–especially for parents and people that claim to be working on behalf of Autistic people. It well known that almost all Autistic people have , at least some, difficulty communicating and behaving socially in the same way that neurotypical people do.
During the conversation I had with another parent, I was criticized as having hard feelings and being angry about the messages Autism Speaks pumps out. My anger is based on facts. My argument is logical–and was presented logically through the provision of facts. The fact that I am angry does not negate the rational argument that I have. The inability/unwillingness to process rational and well presented arguments, regardless of the presenter’s emotion indicates a lack of audience logic and objectivity.
During this same conversation, this parent attempted to use Autistic people’s anger over violations to their civil rights, injustice, and inequality as the basis for her argument that Autistic adults lack understanding of Autism as a spectrum and as hostility towards parents for successful advocacy efforts. When the logic in her arguments were pointed out, which I will be discussing in a future post, she did not dispute the points of the argument–in fact, she ignored the arguments and made some trite comments about not dwelling in negativity. Her attempt to draw attention away from logic by implying that people cannot be both angry and productive is a pathetic derailment tactic. Unfortunately, it is also quite effective in its ability to get audiences to prioritize tone over content and to maintain/garner support from those that do not have the ability
A person can be both angry and effective. Angry and logical. Angry and right. In fact, I would argue that anger is a key component in successful activism. To imply otherwise is to ignore the work of civil rights leaders like Ghandi and MLK.
The last thing that I would like to discuss is ableism as it pertains to communication and social behavior. Let’s forget the fact that being angry does not negate being right. Instead let’s focus on the fact that most Autistic people have some difficulty in communicating and behaving socially in ways that neurotypical people do. Insisting that Autistic people communicate by adhering to neurotypical standards, to me, is akin to insisting that physically disabled people mobilize in the ways that able bodied people do.
Decent people would never criticize a physically disabled person for walking with a limp or using a wheelchair. Why is okay to constantly criticize an Autistic person’s communication style or social behavior? The fact that this happens, regularly, is yet another way that Autistic people are disabled by social constructs. If you are a person that truly believes that Autistic people should enjoy equality and access to civil rights, you will not deny them such on the grounds that you do not like the manner in which they communicate or behave socially. If you a person that agrees that Autistic people should be heard, you will forget about the way that things are being said and concentrate, instead, on the substance of what is being said.
to be continued…