This little boy reminds me of myself at that age, sitting by himself and looking like something’s going on in his life that he doesn’t like. Photo courtesy of bet.com.
Some brief (I hope) musings on what it’s like having Asperger’s Disorder as a Black male, and the alienation I experienced due to that.
When the whole Oscars controversy – the one where for the second straight year, no blacks or any other people of color were nominated among the major award categories – went down, of course I was appropriately disappointed.
I was also glad that the Academy took the steps it did to try to foster more diversity and inclusion.
But the whole thing invoked another reaction in me…
I don’t know exactly why, but it reminded me of the relationships I have had with the black community at large throughout the course of my life.
Which was and is best described as complex and mixed at best, as my disability on the Autism Spectrum Disorder was the main factor in being largely teased and bullied by my African-American peers as a child and through my adolescence, being called “Goofy” and a “Mark” among other things.
The book I’ve been working on, “MY ASPIE LIFE”, which I have finished my first draft and plan to have self-published by my 50th birthday in 2017, has a chapter detailing this alienation called “The Black Rejection” (that’s what I’m calling it so far, though that may change) explaining how I was – in general, as there were exceptions – socially rejected by my fellow black kids growing up and how I somehow couldn’t relate to the various nuances of black culture, particularly inner city black culture.
A. School success is generally not regarded as “cool” and seen as a “white” thing among lower-income black youth, and I was one of the best students during my elementary and junior high years, getting A’s with regularity as school just came easy to me.
B. Ability to fight, to throw fisticuffs, to show that you are “hard”, is a predominant part of inner city black youth culture, as is being “tested” to see how tough you were.
I didn’t like to fight and had no interest in doing so, preferring to be left alone unless you were being nice, which doomed me to some traumatic years as a “Mark”.
C. Like the typical “aspie”, my gross motor skills weren’t up to snuff for a long time as a kid as my athletic abilities didn’t really start to develop until around age eleven.
Which is a crime punishable by social death in black youth culture, and was another albatross around my neck as by the time my sports skills improved, it was too late. My reputation as a “Sorry Mother F***er” was entrenched.
D. Due to being relatively poor, I didn’t dress in the “fresh” styles until around eighth grade or so, which was another source of ridicule.
In short, in black inner city youth culture, as far as my experiences…
It wasn’t cool to be smart and get good grades. I was smart and got good grades.
It was seen as cool to be “hard” and to fight to show your “hardness”. I wasn’t interested in fighting and didn’t give a care about seen as hard.
It was seen as cool to be good to sports. I wasn’t until much later on.
It was expected to be dressed in the “freshest” fashions and shoes. I didn’t for a long time.
I’m sure some are asking, “What are you getting at?”
While I am properly proud of being African-American and of my black heritage, and while I hold no grudges against those who bullied me back in the day as I have forgiven them,
While I am definitely not an “Uncle Tom” or any kind of black conservative like Ben Carson, Herman Cain or the man who first drafted Proposition 209, which banned Affirmative Action in California’s public institutions, Ward Connerly,
And even though I gratefully managed to find some good black friends in college who accepted me for who I was,
Most regretfully, those negative experiences I felt in my youth still leaves me feeling a tiny bit alienated somehow, like I culturally don’t have enough in common with too many of my black peers, particularly those in low-income communities.
Which I reckon I can’t do anything about, not if I want to stay myself.
It’s too bad really, as far as black unity is concerned, but like I said,
Unless I want to change my personality, which no one should ever do, there’s nothing that can be done about it.
A cool diagram of the various disabilities on the Autism Specturm Disorder. Image courtesy of rapidrazzaq.com