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On the Spectrum and Fighting Racism: Tips for Organizing

For people with autism, taking on systemic racism can involve online activism.

Despite the high profile given to spasms of violence, the sustained antiracist demonstrations in our nation’s streets this summer are largely peaceful affairs. To see thousands of Americans united in solemn objection to hate, oppression and inequality is to believe in the future of this country.

Still, for many of us on the autism spectrum, these peaceful civil gatherings can be overwhelming. Autism is often associated with intensified sensitivity to loud noises, crowds, and bright light. That can make bullhorns, impassioned chants, and long outdoor marches – especially under the summer sun – a no-go for many on the spectrum.

As much as those of us with autism may want to be out on the front lines of peaceful protest, and be at the physical forefront of desperately needed change, the in-person experience can be too overwhelming and personally damaging.

However, being autistic needn’t push us to the sidelines. Amplified in part by technology, our voices today can be just as loud in these historic moments – and just as effective – as our peers assembling in the streets.

In no particular order, here are a few ideas for people on the spectrum who are eager to contribute to the undoing of systemic racism in the United States and beyond our borders.

 zizzy0104 from FreeImages
Source: Source: zizzy0104 from FreeImages
  • Organize a virtual town hall. Through a video-conferencing platform like Zoom or Google Hangouts, invite neighbors and local leaders to a frank and open discussion about how your community can better undermine racism and inequality through practical, clear steps.
  • Foster a Facebook or a similar group for longer-term dialogue around issues of race. Make the group public and develop prompts to get people thinking deeply. Develop recommendations together and share them with organizations and leaders who are in a position to drive policy and other direct changes.
  • Invite leaders of local antiracist demonstrations to be interviewed via Zoom, Facebook, or another public platform. Delve into the experience of protesting and what motivates them to do it. This can help illuminate the demonstrations for many local residents who may not be able to attend or participate.
  • Develop a petition, letter-writing, or phone-call campaign. Identify a goal and go after it. Enlist supporters to fire up their email or log on to or a similar platform.
  • Volunteer and contribute. Organizations fighting oppression need help – both in labor and in resources. That labor isn’t always in the form of in-person – it may be rooted online or handled by phone.

Above all, harness your unique strengths and put them to work for something you believe in. As I’ve written here before, it’s essential that our society pivot from a disabilities-centered viewpoint and instead focus on abilities – those individual skills, characteristics, and qualities that shape our contributions and, by extension, the world.

As our nation rises up and binds together, each of us has a pivotal role to play. Let’s seize it.

More from Stephen M. Shore Ed.D.
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