Race, Women and Autism

When I tell people that I’m working on a documentary about black women with AS, they often inquire as to whether AS is different because of race or gender.  The question still gives me pause.  I don’t have the short answer.

My subject work in film and video has largely centered on the lives of black women and the first person I met with AS is an African American woman.

AS is a disorder that strips people of recognizing social cues and from my perspective being able to read people and adjust accordingly is the forte of black women.  We find ourselves on so many playing fields not designed or concerned with us that we have become social chameleons.  So to me a black woman with AS is without armor, skills or just plan mother wit.

Through spending time videotaping each of the women I’ve learned more about how African American women function in society and how various African American communities respond to neurological disorders and mental illness.

I expected the women to interact with one another more.  After all relating to other black women is a touchstone for working through many life situations.  It wasn’t long that I discovered that AS prevented them from forming those kinds of relationships.  I became friends with each woman and it just took time, understanding on my part.    What typical in the relationships is that are they a self focused and conversation centers largely around their lives.  However, they each make an effort to show caring by pushing to do something social on my account.  While the efforts may seem minimal to most people, I realize the monumental effort that my friends are making.