The allusion Prutsman makes of lumping the rare genetic pool of Sickle Cell with the total population of African Americans makes absolutely no sense when in fact the ability to gain the genetic counseling, services and supports African American Sickle Cell trait and disorder clients need absolutely requires identifying as either a carrier of the trait, or a patient needing health supports and services throughout their lives. Mr. Prutsman's allusion appears to show his complete lack of understanding about invisible and apparent disability and the importance of identity in gaining access to lifelong services and healthcare supports.
Every marginalized group within any community progress by reclaiming or owning labels used to limit or marginalize them and empowering such labels by making them part of a greater individual identity. The term "Black" was reclaimed when I was growing up, and as I and hundreds of other students of color in my generation entered all-white schools to insults, attacks, and abuse, James Brown's "I'm Black and I'm Proud" and similar reclamations of skin color as identity kept our heads up.
Sickle Cell Trait and Sickle Cell disorders in all stages are both the disability and the disabled identity of those who are diagnosed.
There is a long, painful history involving the African American community and modern medicine and the lack of advancement in the supports and treatment of Sickle Cell patients in adulthood is part of it. We have been subjected to experimentation, sterilization without consent, endemic disparities in medical care that have created another race-based health crisis in America. We women who are African American are dying in pregnancy and childbirth in numbers not acceptable anywhere, much less in a so-called developed nation.
I have spent years trying to think of a way to explain the insult in stereotypical racial microaggressions ingrained in white society that use the monolithic construct of "African American" as an object in literary allusions that dog whistle racism as a method to make an example that they believe will offend others enough to hammer some trivial point home. In this example, I can only guess the author intended to invoke a genetic illness which in his mind would evoke sufficient pity and validation as a catastrophic enough condition to make his essay readers uncomfortable when paired with "African American."
But in this moment, where white people are calling 911 on young girls of color selling water, on this anniversary of the death of Tamir Rice, it is not acceptable to use African Americans and rare disabilities in any attempts to dominate the autism or any other unrelated conversation.
Researchers believe that the cumulative impact of racial microaggressions over the lifespan of a marginalized group are more damaging to minorities they target than any single blatant incident of overt racism. There are now ongoing attempts to make POC aware of these microaggressions so that they can act to reduce their impact. At the same time, professionals are trying to educate perpetrators of racial microaggressions while letting them know that intentional or not, such acts cause widespread harm to marginalized people.
Mr. Prutsman could have found any number of literary allusions to make his point without the misuse of African Americans and disabled African Americans. Futhermore, as the Black mother of an autistic son, the use of such offensive constructs alienates me and my disabled son from the autism conversation and this is unacceptable, because we have a right to representation in this community.
The hashtag #AutisticWhileBlack was created because macro and microaggressions are embedded in the structure of autism advocacy and it needs to end. Let's begin to make to an effort to improve diverse representation in the autism conversation by not repeating combined racist-ableist gaffes like this one.
Racial microaggressions in the life experience of Black Americans
By Sue, Derald Wing, Capodilupo, Christian M., Holder, Alisha M. B.
Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, Vol 39(3), Jun 2008, 329-336
Disparities in care of Sickle Cell Patients
Sickle Cell patients suffer as disparities in care and research persist
Sickle Cell Patients Endure Discrimination, Poor Care, and Shortened LIves
Sickle Cell Patients, Families, and Doctors Face a FIght for Everything
Black Mothers Keep Dying After Giving Birth. Shalon Irving's Story Explains Why