Reflecting on History, Resisting Hate

Closeup Of People Holding Candle Vigil In Dark Seeking Hope

On April 19th, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network issued the following statement in response to new reports further detailing Hans Asperger’s collaboration with the Nazi regime:

We are a community with a long history of resilience in the face of overwhelming hatred. The history of the autistic community has always been shaped by violent prejudice against disabled people, and these prejudices have always gone hand-in-hand with violent racism. This history of violence includes institutional abuse, forced sterilization, and murder. Ideas about what a good life is, whether some lives are worth more than others, and who counts as a contributing member of society, have always affected the way society treats people with disabilities. These ideas have always been violent and have always ended up killing people.

While this latest news may be very distressing to hear, it doesn’t change who we are as autistic people, and it doesn’t change what autism is. How others perceive our disability absolutely affects our lives, but we define autism on our own terms. We are primarily concerned with the experiences of our fellow autistic people, not what Asperger thought. Indeed, the diagnosis “Asperger’s Syndrome” is no longer in use in the United States, having been folded into the unified autism diagnosis in 2013. This reflects both clinical fact as well as the truth, long acknowledged by self-advocates, that we are one autistic community.

We urge advocates to take this opportunity to re-examine the ways that ideas devaluing people with disabilities are still around and still being used to further racist agendas. The Trump Administration is currently in the process of proposing a regulation which would penalize immigrant families with disabled family members, and make it harder for people to become citizens if they or their family members ever need any type of social service. The rule calls people with disabilities a “public charge”– a drain on society. This is what eugenics looks like today. Advocates must be united and unambiguous in our opposition to this rule and other modern threats to the lives and liberty of people with disabilities. We all have a responsibility to pay attention and speak out against this kind of dangerous ideology.

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network seeks to advance the principles of the disability rights movement with regard to autism. ASAN believes that the goal of autism advocacy should be a world in which autistic people enjoy equal access, rights, and opportunities. We work to empower autistic people across the world to take control of our own lives and the future of our common community, and seek to organize the autistic community to ensure our voices are heard in the national conversation about us. Nothing About Us, Without Us!