In the course of conversations, I occasionally get the opportunity to call out examples of casual able-ism. Usually, when this happens, the other person will apologize and move on. Yay!
In a recent conversation on Facebook, however, I came across someone who described a public personality as:
I just think he doesn't care one way or the other. He goes with whatever way the wind blows. Frankly, I think he is somewhere on the spectrum.
To which I responded:
Why did you use "on the spectrum" as a slur..?
The response showed a lack of understanding as to what I meant:
I didn't. I used it quite seriously. He seems disconnected. His affect is off. Galit, I am disturbed you drew the wrong conclusion about me.
So I explained:
Autism and ASD are not equivalent to apathy ("I just think he doesn't care one way or the other.") Nor do people on the spectrum typically "go with whatever way the wind blows."
Now the other person got really upset:
Galit, you know nothing about me and you are making slurs against ME. Go away.
Whoa! Did I say anything that warranted that? Did I say anything about the person I was conversing with? Well, I tried to calm things down:
I didn't claim to know anything about you, nor did I slur you. I do know something about autism. I understand that you might have made the statement you did out of a common misconception about the nature of autism. I am sorry if I touched a raw nerve for you with my comments. There is much prejudice around disability, even today, and I try to point it out when I see it come up in casual conversation. I don't want to hijack the thread, that's not what it is about. Peace.
Alas, peace was not to be had:
Galit, you lectured me. You made assumptions about me. And you are still doing so. Please go away.
Was I off base? What do you think was going on?
(Obviously, I did not persist at this point, as any further attempts seemed pointless.)