Im a black man with Aspergers.
My name is Brian.
Im a black man living in New York City and I have Aspergers. Although I’ve always known that my mind didnt work like everyone elses, I wasnt diagnosed until late last year. Prior to that I spent a great deal of energy and time trying to be “normal”, even though I was never quite sure what that meant. I just knew that I felt different. While the other kids played tag or basketball I was much more interested in timing how long it took the ants on the sidewalk to devour a freshly sucked Jolly Rancher. I was never able to truly connect with the kids in my neighborhood. I always felt like a spectator, even when included in the “fun”. One way around that was by mimicking what the other kids were doing. I found that the less of myself I showed the more I was accepted. Unfortunately this filtered into other areas of my life.
In my late teens I convinced myself that the more of my culture (blackness) I gave up, the more successful I’d be. I began shedding myself of what I thought blackness was. I declared that only white women understood me, I made my hatred of rap music known everywhere I went, I scoffed and looked down at people that complained about racism by saying “SLAVERY HAS BEEN OVER FOR YEARS!! GET OVER IT”. I had a pretty skewed notion of what race and culture was back then, I just knew that the successful people on TV and in things that I saw were white, so in my head I had to be like them to get what I wanted. And back then all I really wanted was for someone to understand me. I quickly found out that it doesnt really matter how much of yourself you’re willing to give up. Some people will never accept you for what you are. Didnt matter how white my girlfriend was, didnt matter how much I claimed I hated rap music, didnt matter how “proper” the english I spoke was. I still got followed around certain parts of town.
One day while driving around with my mother we got pulled over by the police. The officer didnt bother to talk to my mother (who was driving), she walked right past her and asked me for my ID. When I protested she told me she was doing this for HER safety to make sure I didnt have any warrants. This was a big wake up call for me. I saw how much of myself I had given up and changed my tune. The last 10 years have been filled with the rediscovery of my blackness and myself. The journey has been hard, but its been worth it.
If you’re wondering what this has to do with my diagnoses of Aspergers Im about to tell you: Im learning that I need to approach my Aspergers the same way I’ve learned to approach my blackness. I have an internal argument with myself before I make any decision, it usually goes, “what would someone normal do right now?”, “doesn’t matter, you don’t even know what that is”, “Stop being crazy”, “just stop being Autistic”, then I realize that I cant just stop being autistic and I do what the fuck I want. Learning to accept myself has been the biggest and hardest thing I’ve done in my entire life, but I’m getting there. I come from a long line of strong and beautiful people, remembering that helps me get the strength to better myself. I’ll never be like everyone else, but that’s OK because the people I’ve surrounded myself with like who I am. I think. Right? Probably.