Alright – so, Sen Abeler whom I consider a friend for some reason has become unrecognizable to me. He first appointed a white man (Wayne Rohde who believes dangerous anti-vaccine ideas) and two white women (Jean Bender & Sheryl Grassie) to select an autism council members. Have you ever heard of the saying – the leaf doesn’t fall far from the tree? Well, I have. This Caucasian trio picked a majority of members that resembled them. Now, what does this all mean? It means voices from minority communities will not be heard. What does this create? wait for it….it is original…..drum roll pls……oh yeah racial disparity. Does Minnesota have racial disparity? unless you live under a rock. Heck yes.
What is racial disparity? we always hear it on the news, see people suffering from it but what is it exactly. It is when two people of similar situations get differential treatment. For example, child A named Anderson applies to an ABA therapy agency and lives in Mpls. He is white and six years old with nonverbal autism. He is accepted and is assigned to a team of therapists to teach and help him. Child B named Ali applies to the same ABA therapy agency and lives on the same road in Mpls as child A. He is Black and is six years old with nonverbal autism. His parents are told, the agency simply does not have any room for him and has a long wait list but they are very sorry. Sound familiar? that is because it happens daily to children of color with autism in Minnesota and probably nationwide. Just google it as the list of examples is too long to list here.
Still confused about what racial disparity is. Let’s give another example. Child A, Donte goes to a public school in Bloomington Public Schools and has nonverbal autism. Child B Nelson goes to school in Bloomington Public Schools and has nonverbal autism. One day child A (Donte) has a behavior due to his disability, he is suspended for a week and sent home. Another day Child B (Nelson) has a behavior due to his disability, the school hires a behavior analyst to find the function of his behavior and his IEP team meets to figure out how to help him. You see this happens every day in Minnesota and this blatant differential treatment is what creates disparity. In other words, racial disparity is created by intentional discrimination caused by either conscious or subconscious beliefs.
Alright – now let’s go back to this Caucasian trio that cherry-picked Sen Abeler’s Minnesota Autism Council. Why didn’t they have more diverse folks representing African American autism parents, Latino American Autism parents, Native American Autism Parents, Minority-owned autism therapy agencies, etc.? Their reason ….wait for it…..seriously wait for it…….we could not find any. Gee, I wonder where I heard that before. Oh yeah every agency, school district, and their mamas use this useless and incorrect excuse. You see – people of color whose voices also need to be heard exist. But if the selecting committee does not reflect them as this vanilla group did not then they are left out and this creates racial disparity which comes from racial discrimination. Now, you don’t have to call someone the N word to be racist. You can even have black friends, work with black folks and still be subliminally racist or bias.
To me it seems this council is less welcoming than a white golf club in Alabama in the 1960s. The saddest thing of all is that Sen Abeler who is usually authentic and genuine is allowing it.
I will say it had a lot of autistic folks who are able to communicate their needs and were highly intelligent which was probably the only positive thing in this secluded committee. But even this group needed to be diverse and have several minority self-advocate autistics unless of course, the cherry-picking trio could not find any.. yeah right. I am not buying this for a minute. They do exist but were not selected. In fact, three members from the Oromo community were denied. Why? you figure it out. If it selects like a duck and acts like a duck it is a bleeping duck.
There were also members from another all-white Alabama 1950’s golf club. I think they call themselves ATAM or something. They represent all white ABA therapy agencies. How Minnesota nice! By the way, this group testified against the last autism committee in Minnesota by a Bill from the queen of autism disparity previous state legislator, and sadly current mayor of Rochester – Kim Norton. Melissa who is with ATAM testified and I remember I asked why. Her response was – I don’t know we were told by Norton to do it so I did. I am still in shock by such a gang mentality response.
This secluded council also has few folks from the previous autism task force. Mr Trahan who if you remember was adamantly against Minnesota covering ABA therapy for low-income autism children via Medicaid. In fact, he and I testified on the opposite sides in a house committee. He was for the coverage of taking $20 million dollars from the state health and human services budget to subsidize private insurance companies to cover ABA while low-income Medicaid kids got nothing. And, I testified for what now became EIBDI. Back then it was 1915i Medicaid autism waiver. Clearly, we won and the private insurance coverage which Ms Bender (from the Alabama golf club trio) also wanted, in fact, the entire autism task force except for health plans rep (Dr David G) wanted but it failed. Boohoo, cry me a river. And the low income or Medicaid ABA coverage passed at 1am on a rainy Thursday night in May of 2013 with just me and other Somali community autism parents and community member’s support. Mr Trahan said something that stuck in my mind. “let’s make Minnesota a good example for other states to follow”. That sounds good on paper but Minnesota must first stop being so darn racist and having so many racial disparities. We are all created equal and the notion that anyone is better or superior to anyone else is wrong and reprehensible. I will say this – Mr Trahan has lots of good ideas as I am someone that believes in giving credit where credit is due unlike so many hillbillies in Minnesota who take our ideas and credit themselves. I like his ideas of training law enforcement about autism. I also like how he fought Mayo to cover autism therapy. He would be cool if he just walked on the ground and came off his high horse by realizing a person is a person is a person irrespective of their views and it is ok to disagree on things because we have different experiences and backgrounds. And, you don’t have to like me to validate my ideas.
There were state agency representatives in this council, although I did not see county representative, public schools representative, charter schools representative nor health plans representative. I wonder what the exclusive trio’s reason for not getting those folks is.. I bet they couldn’t find one county person from 87 counties. Lovely! Let’s start with the village idiot from the health department who I can say without hesitation is racist. Here is why. A few years ago, I and other Somali autism parents advocated in HRSA (look it up if you don’t know who HRSA is) for an autism grant. MDH was going to apply for this funding and wanted the Minn autism task force to give them a support letter. All good right. Hold on to your seat, it is a bumpy ride. Ms Dalbec writes the application grant and I ask her to write in there that the funding will be shared with communities of color parents and agencies. She says no and I say well then I will not sign into the letter from the task force and I will let HRSA know you are against equity and equality. So then, the all mighty self-entitled Mr Trahan gets mad and says we are writing a support letter from all of the members. I tell him to take a flying leap and that he does not speak for me and I will not support this letter unless there is a written language into the grant for people that look like me will benefit from it. If you know the history of autism in Minnesota then you know how this ends as I am not going to repeat it because I have already blogged about it then.
We again prevail because HRSA tells them to write the application in an inclusive manner and the governor’s amazing health policy person directs MDH to include the inclusive language I was asking. You see in this state and sadly in many states in this county, equality and equity happen with consistent and relentless advocacy which is something most elite whites can’t even comprehend because they don’t experience it.
There was also a representative from DEED, Abbie. Now, I have never seen Abbie say or do anything bias but she tolerates it. My gentle friendly advice to Abbie is something Desmond Tutu said “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality”. Abbie speak up the next time the likes of Ms Dalbec or Mr Trahan want to dismiss or belittle the needs of others.
Then there was someone from MDE who I guess represents education and autism. I don’t know her at all and can not comment. But she was silent. I would ask her to work on how students with autism can succeed in school, not be suspended for having behaviors due to their disability and level four setting which is a gateway to prison for so many minority students especially black boys. Just look at Harrison Education Center in Mpls and 917 school district which takes students from Bloomington public schools and is a segregated George Wallace education setting. Better yet, just google the report from Minn dept of Human rights where 43 school districts were cited for suspending students of color and students with disabilities disproportionately. This really boils my blood and is one area I must advocate before I am fully retired.
DHS sent Jason. For those that don’t know Jason, I can describe him in one word – Mr Fantastic. I am usually not a big fan of DHS as you may have read in my blog posts but this guy simply rocks.
Oh, I almost forgot, there was someone from Univ of MN – well actually two. I think I will write a different blog about Jennifer Hall-Lande and Amy Esler and the Somali Community’s history with them. It is not pretty. When I think of white privilege, I think of these two and there are plenty of reasons for it. Stay tuned for my next post. I will also be blogging about this committee to see if they appoint diverse members or continue to be an exclusive and secluded white golf club in Alabama from the 1950s.
Another area I will write about is how the anti-vaccine group who now are part of this beloved exclusive autism group will interact with the state health department. Will Ms Dalbec say facts and research about autism and vaccines, or will she stay mute and let this group (who also, by the way, has divided and exploited the Somali community more than any other group) inject their crazy ideas into Minnesota’s state legislator? This is a fight I want to see. Well except when whites disagree it is not a fight. What do they call it? I am blanking out on it. Oh yeah…it is called a heated and passionate discussion. But when a minority person disagrees with a white person, we are called…. another drum roll pls…..difficult, angry, emotional – yada yada. My favourite is when two minorities disagree – guess what it is called? Think about it. This is going to be a fun ride, so many things to write about and so little time…Stay tuned! Title of my next post (The first step towards equity and equality for Minnesotans is to first accept and take responsibility for the states’ racial disparity and discrimination) You can’t heal if you are in denial, oh my Minnesota Caucasians are in denial. An addict can only recover when he/she admits he/she is an addict.
I am going to end this post with two more quotes from one of my heroes – Desmond Tutu..
I am not interested in picking up crumbs of compassion thrown from the table of someone who considers himself my master. I want the full menu of rights.
When these white trio kept saying diversity more times than I can count but lacked actual diversity in the committee they cherry picked, I thought of above the quote.
Another Tutu quote simply says “A person is a person because he recognizes others as persons”. You see if this caucasion trio recognized minority folks as persons whose voices are also important and must be heard then we would not be where we are today. Not only did they not see us as persons, but as usual they were defensive and arrogant about it.
Above words do not reflect any candidate, agency or committee.
Idil – Autism Mom