Working Towards Racial Justice in ASAN and the Autistic Community

a microphone with a blurry orange background

Over the last few months, the autistic community has had painful and necessary conversations about long-standing issues of racism within our community. Many BIPOC autistic advocates have spoken out about their experiences of racism, exclusion, and underrepresentation in autistic communities and in organized advocacy. And many of our community members have reached out to ASAN, urging us to do better to center the needs, experience, and leadership of autistic people of color in every part of our work. These conversations are vital to creating an equitable, anti-racist autistic movement — the movement that our BIPOC autistic community members deserve. 

We are listening, and we are grateful to our BIPOC community members who are speaking out. Some of our BIPOC community members have faced harassment after sharing their experiences of racism or criticisms of ASAN. We unequivocally condemn this harassment. BIPOC autistics are sharing their experiences and raising concerns because they want our community to move towards justice. That is self-advocacy in action. 

We want to update you on some of the steps we have been taking to center anti-racism in all of ASAN’s work. Last June, we committed to deepen our work towards racial equity. Over the past year, we have continued to pursue policies to challenge systemic racism, and we sought to use our annual gala to uplift BIPOC self-advocates through panels and other programming. The majority of ASAN’s board of directors are people of color, as are 40% of our staff. For the past year and a half, ASAN has been working with Epiphanies of Equity, a BIPOC-led social equity group, to examine our internal structures and practices and develop detailed plans to increase equity and inclusion throughout our organization. We hope to be able to share the completed plans with our community in the next couple of months. Some specific aspects of our plans include:

  • Increasing representation of BIPOC staff in ASAN’s management and executive leadership.
  • Deliberately centering autistic people of color in our programs and policy work.
  • Creating regular opportunities for community members of color to have input into ASAN’s work, including BIPOC-led listening sessions.
  • Developing Easy Read materials about systemic oppression, intersectionality, and anti-racism, in partnership with BIPOC self-advocates.
  • Increasing transparency with our community, including open communication about our progress in implementing these plans.

We recognize that this process will be ongoing and require constant learning, reflection, and changes to how we approach our work for many years to come. We are grateful to everyone who has taken the time to reach out to us with your concerns, feedback, and suggestions. Thank you for helping our organization, our community, and our movement live up to our values.

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!