We’re Not Broken

by Eric Garcia

Someone close to me was recently diagnosed with autism and asked me to read this book to better understand them. I’m glad they did, because I didn’t realize how little I knew about autism or how to think about it.

Some takeaways:

  • Autism is not actually on the rise—alarmingly or otherwise. Basically, we were really bad at identifying it and now we’re better at identifying it.
  • Autism is fairly common. According to the CDC about 1 in 36 people is on the spectrum, making autistic people one of the largest minorities in America.
  • Autism is a disability, not a disease. It probably can’t be cured because, as advocate Jim Sinclair said, “it is not possible to separate the person from the autism.”
  • High functioning and low functioning are misleading, unhelpful terms. People with autism have different support needs, and the amount of support someone needs does not necessarily correspond to their ability to function.

And most important of all, autistic people must have their own say in their support options and autism policy. Even well-meaning parents and other neurotypical advocates are not a substitute for self advocacy.

The book reminded me of another disability rights advocate, Haben Girma, who I interviewed on The Lawyerist Podcast in 2019. Both Girma and the author of this book, Eric Garcia, advocate for the social model of disability—that it is society’s job to remove barriers to access by disabled people, rather than seeing them as broken people in need of mending.

Seems right to me.

We Go Where They Go: The Story of Anti-Racist Action

by Kristin Schwartz, Lady, Michael Staudenmaier & Shannon Clay

In the late 1980s a Minneapolis skinhead crew, the Baldies, decided to kick neo-nazi skinheads—boneheads—out of the Uptown punk scene.

Soon after, the Baldies started Anti-Racist Action, which grew into a loose organization of hundreds of chapters and thousands of nationwide activists who fought nazis, the KKK, anti-abortion extremists, and racist cops—in the streets or wherever they went.

We Go Where They Go is an insider history of ARA, from the Baldies through September 11th, after which the ARA all but faded from existence. Plus lessons to be learned by today’s anti-fascist activists, should it get organized into a movement.

It’s also a compelling read. I plowed through it in just a few sittings.

(Pro tip: get your copy directly from PM Press and you’ll also get a handful of cool stickers, pins, and magnets.)

While you are waiting for your copy of We Go Where They Go, this is a great documentary about the Baldies, from the Twin Cities PBS station, TPT: