not talking over people

another thing about privilege

If you have a lot of privilege, you’ve learned to take up all or most of the space when you’re around people below you in the hierarchy. 

It’s important to learn to stop doing that. It’s important to learn how to be in a space without dominating it. It means learning to listen to people you’ve been systemically taught that it’s ok to talk over.

This can be hard to learn. When you stop dominating spaces, you have to live with less control, space, and attention than you’ve become accustomed to. You’re going to feel constrained, and like the other people are taking up all the space – even if you’re still taking up most of it.

And, once it becomes clear that you’re trying, people will express anger at you a lot more than then used to. This might feel really unfair, since you’re acting better than you ever have before, yet you’re attracting a lot more anger and criticism. 

The reason it works this way is because people used to put up with you treating them badly because they didn’t see any point in objecting. Most people who have privilege and power over others don’t especially care about how it hurts people. Further, a lot of them get really angry and retaliate when it’s pointed out. You’ve shown that you’re someone who might actually listen. That means you’re the one who gets yelled at.

It’s not fair, but the people who are yelling at you aren’t the ones responsible for the unfairness. Don’t get angry at them for it - get angry at the people like you who aren’t getting yelled at because they don’t give a damn. And maybe start calling them on it and make their indifference cost them something. You’re probably in a much better position to do this than the people below you in the hierarchy. 

And keep in mind that the situation faced by the people who are yelling at you is a hell of a lot more unfair than the situation you’re in.

That said, don’t beat yourself up for feeling frustrated, either. This is hard, and it’s ok to find it difficult. You’re going to make mistakes, and some of this is really going to suck. That doesn’t mean you’re a bad person or that you can’t learn how to act right. (Also, sometimes people will tell you that you’re oppressing them when you’re not. You can’t automatically assume that everyone is right when they tell you off – but if you’re in a highly privileged group and you think *everyone* who is telling you off is wrong, you’re probably the one who is wrong.)

Just keep trying, and don’t make the people below you responsible for making you feel better.

Another kind of reply

lawlandauror asked realsocialskills:

.There is a sorority at my college who’s charity is Autism Speaks. All their promotional material and events are making me really uncomfortable. I’m not autistic but I am nueroatypical. I don’t want to talk over autistic people, but I also don’t want to stay silent. What can I do in this situation?

A few things I’d say, in addition to signing the pledge and urging others to do so:

I think what you need to bear in mind is that you’re not speaking for autistic people, you’re saying why Autism Awareness is bad. You don’t need to be autistic to understand that. So long as you’re not claiming to speak for others, I think you’re probably ok.

(For instance, don’t say “autistic people don’t like autism speaks!”, say something like “autism speaks doesn’t have any autistic people in positions of leadership and that’s a problem”).

Also, don’t expect any kind of emotional reaction from autistic folks as a result of what you say. Don’t expect autistic people to be grateful, or to be moved that someone is saying something. Sometimes that might happen. But it shouldn’t be the reason you’re speaking up, and it shouldn’t be something you expect. If you’re putting additional emotional pressure on autistic folks, you’re doing it wrong. 

And also, Awareness paints a pretty broad brush. Autistic people get the most direct hate this month, but it’s also when people promote a model of neurological disability that’s dangerous for everyone. Feeling personally threatened by that is not appropriative or silencing. If that’s part of what’s going on for you, it’s ok to say so.