10.22.2011

The TPGA Dialogues Discussed, Part 2

I replied again to the TPGA Dialogues discussion continuing at Julia Roberts's Support for Special Needs, because there's still some not getting it going on. While it is against my non-confrontational nature to get in the middle of such things, this is not about me -- this is about doing the right thing even when it's not easy.

While I don't doubt that Julia will post my comment, those comments are moderated and it might take a bit for this to appear.

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Apologies for the delay in replying -- beyond busy these past ten days though I've been thinking about this the whole time, because it's so damn important.

I am all for civil disagreement. I crave it. Anything else is an aversive and makes me wince.

But I also recognize that it is unreasonable to expect people who are oppressed to be civil when discussing that oppression with the people who are oppressing them. We parents who do not ourselves have/share our kids' disabilities know too well how pissed we get when folks treat us and our kids badly, especially when they do so from behind a shield of good intentions. Do we really want to behave that same way towards people who know what it's like to be our kids, and who (in the case of every last adult with autism who wrote for the Dialogues) work so hard to make life better for our kids/people with disabilities?

If we were parenting children of a different sexual orientation or race, I'm guessing very few of us would dismiss the feelings or rights of representatives from our children's community, or get publicly defensive if we were called out for writing something offensive to them if we did so out of ignorance rather than malice. We would listen and learn rather than protest because those communities have established, recognized advocacy movements, and have changed the way most of us think -- to the point where folks who publicly oppose racial equality or LGBT rights look like total assholes.

The rights matters discussed in the Dialogues are no different, but the discussion is younger, and while the Disability Rights movement is long-standing, the Autistic Self-Advocacy movement is just starting. Do we really want to be the opposing assholes cited in the history books? If we aren't ready for, don't have the energy to, aren't able to help, or aren't able to tolerate the unpleasantness that comes with working towards and effecting real social change, can't we just listen without making it about us -- or get out of the way?

This is hard for me to write. I like everyone who wrote for the Dialogues. I always want everyone to get along. And, when I find out people are upset my heart goes out to them -- as it did to Rob Rummel-Hudson when there were real-life repercussions from participating in the Dialogues, and as it did to so many of the participating self-advocates who felt that Robert and other parents continued to justify not listening to and dismissing them.

I am not saying all self-advocates are paragons of righteousness and perfection, or are incapable of making mistakes, or that we non-disabled parents need to listen to every last word they say and can never argue, never have the right to stand up for ourselves. That would be absurd, as it would be to expect self-advocates to view us non-disabled parents the same way. But when the discussions are about what self-advocates want, and what they need, and what they deserve? If we want to be the kind of parents and allies our kids want, need, and deserve, then we need to listen.

Again, I recommend people read the second week of the Dialogues, which would be the top five posts at the following URL, i.e., Day Six through Day Ten: http://thinkingautismguide.blogspot.com/search/label/dialogue.

I also recommend reading Jean Winegardner's excellent essay on the Dialogues, Who Should Lead the Autism Rights Movement:
http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/autism-unexpected/2011/sep/30/who-should-lead-autism-rights-movement/

Update: additional recommended posts from advocates:

3 comments:

  1. The whole listing "you need us" before "we need you" in the article linked is yet more parent-centering. Major turnoff.

    Actually, so was the attitude that parents aren't being listened to enough. Cuz that's not the case. At all. And I'm sick of people (mostly parents) insisting that it is, especially when most of them cannot name more than 1 or 2 things that disabled advocates want (and that is more common than should be possible).

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  2. Thanks. I'd recommend folks read your "I don't hate parents" post on this as well, and will update the essay above.

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  3. Rob Gross5:10 PM

    I think you've done a great service to the community by highlighting the difference between ignorance and malice. “Ignorant” is not an insult. Wikipedia notes that ignorance is simply “a state of being uninformed.” I don’t believe any self-advocate accused a parent of being malicious- desiring to inflict injury, suffering or harm- in the Dialogs. What they were calling out was ignorance.

    I am a parent. I want to be very clear in saying that I have, am and will be ignorant in more areas than I’d prefer to acknowledge. That’s life: I’m not perfect. A lot of life is screw-up, learn, repeat. But the learning part is essential. When someone is really pissed off at me- someone I respect- it really hurts. And I can be completely clueless about what I’ve done to piss them off.

    But it’s what I, or anyone, does next that’s crucial. Do we say, “screw it, these people are bad?” Or do we try to figure out what’s making them so angry, especially if we have something in common with them. Especially if they can actually be role models to our own children.

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Respectful disagreement encouraged.

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