Whose Planet Is It Anyway?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Autism, Prenatal Testing, and Prejudice

Originally posted January 2006

In the early part of the 20th century, lynching of blacks was both commonplace and socially acceptable in many parts of the United States. Lynchings were not isolated incidents of mob violence by lower-class whites; to the contrary, many otherwise respectable citizens participated, and many people (including a significant number of law enforcement officials) did not even consider the killing of a black man to be murder. Families packed picnic baskets and took their young children to see lynchings, in much the same way that modern-day Americans would go to a neighborhood party or other social event.

I'm reminded of this shameful history when I see comments by curebie bloggers who write that, if only parents of autistic children would cure them all with [fill in quack fad treatment of your choice], we wouldn't have to worry about prenatal testing and abortion, murder and abuse in institutions, or other such issues.

That sort of attitude leaves me wondering whether, if those curebies had been around a century ago, they would have argued that blacks should just bleach their skin and not have to worry about lynching? That idea is not as farfetched as it may seem at first glance; in recent years,
skin whitening treatments have become very popular in India, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if a prenatal test for skin color (assuming one could be developed) resulted in routine abortion of dark-skinned babies, considering how often female fetuses are aborted in that part of the world.

The question boils down to this: How are we, as a people, going to respond to prejudice? When I say "as a people," I'm referring to the fact that
autism is over 90% heritable, as shown by genetic research studies, which basically means that we are a minority race. (I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for the most obsessive curebies to acknowledge the obvious fact that they are on the so-called spectrum, though.)

What will we do? Are we going to kill our children to spare them a lifetime of social inferiority, like the mothers in India who abort their daughters? Are we going to give our children's brains the equivalent of whitening treatments and hide their differences behind walls of silence and shame? Or are we going to make a stand against prejudice?

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  • Very uncertain about the idea of an autistic 'race' myself, even if something is heritable. Then again I believe that race is a social construct anyway.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:52 AM  

  • wl46106Hey, I definitely agree. I've been diagnosed with having Higher-Functioning Autism (use to be severe when younger) and I keep wondering what chances my child has for having Autism when my fiance has Autism tendencies and I've been diagnosed? I wonder.. is there an Autism test to find out if my child will be Autistic? I would never abort my child... never. It's wrong.

    Michelle... you can email me at Luvs2Write16@aol.com if you want.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 8:29 PM  

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