Kayla Smith and Morénike Giwa Onaiwu: Disability Rights in Black 2020

February 19, 2020
Kayla Smith and Morénike Giwa Onaiwu: Disability Rights in Black 2020

Today #DisabilityRightsInBlack has another amazing double feature, Kayla Smith and Morénike Giwa Onaiwu! Kayla is a young self-advocate and creator of #AutisticBlackPride and Morénike is an experienced advocate, educator, researcher, writer and mom. Both advocates are proud Black women with Autism. Check out Kayla’s heartfelt video message. Below read Morénike’s piece titled “Autistics of Color: We Exist…We Matter” excerpted from the spectacular anthology All The Weight Of Our Dreams: On Living Racialized Autism by Lydia X. Z. Brown and the Autism Women & Nonbinary Network.

Kayla’s Video Message

Morénike’s Autistics of Color: We Exist…We Matter.

Portrait of Morénike smiling to the camera.“Ableism and racism have become deeply ingrained into the collective mindset of humankind. There are so many complex, unspoken, and often contradictory rules about behavior, identity, culture, and society for us to try to comprehend, exacerbated by the reality that since few of the messages we receive about our neurology or our ethnicity is positive, some, perhaps many, of us internalize those unflattering messages.

We – the autistics of color – are seldom acknowledged. Our faces, bodies, and voices are conspicuously absent from not only literature and media, but also from much of the discourse surrounding race and that of autism as well. And when we do appear, we are rarely depicted favorably. We are painted as defective, flawed, undesirable, different. To be pitied. Not only are we non-white, but we are also disabled too? Uh oh. (Or wahala – o!)

When people finally deign to discuss us, it is often to underscore troubling data about autism, most notably the tremendous cost/burden to society autistics are. Typically invisible, we seem to be only dragged into the spotlight as examples when others need to use us to make a point, and even then we are merely reduced to tales of woe and dismal anecdotes. Afterward, we – our plight, our issues, our needs – return to the realm of the ignored, collecting dust until we are needed to serve as unwilling tokens for someone else’s cause yet again.

This might sound calloused, but it is the simple truth. We – those of us who exist at the intersection of disability and race – aren’t treated as if we are “real.” Little concern is paid to the innumerable factors present in our lives that impact how we view ourselves and the world, to how we ourselves are viewed by the world, to our strengths, to our needs. This is a grave injustice. Our lives and experiences cannot be splintered or subdivided into neat little categories; race over here, disability over there. We whose lives are greatly impacted by both racial and disability matters deserve to be more than tokens one day and non-existent the next.”


Morénike Giwa Onaiwu

Follow Morénike on Twitter @MorenikeGO

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