This post should really be called “It’s Affects on My Asperger’s Syndrome” as different things hit people who have Asperger’s in many different ways. With me and I know I am not the only person in the world affected in this way, is the tendency to take things too literal. That makes stereotyping very dangerous for me especially if the subject of said stereotype is behaving in the way people of that group are stereotyped.
One major one was a confrontation I had with an African American man when I was in the service. Growing up, family and others pronounced the stereotype that African Americans would rather use their fists to settle a dispute as opposed to their words. This particular man was ready and willing to use them in this particular instance and only somehow being able to come up with the right words avoided that. I can’t remember what the issue was about but it definitely wasn’t worth fighting over. I have seen others who fit this mold and reinforced the stereotype handed down to me and the result was that I avoided interaction with African Americans out of fear of saying something and getting punched. Unfortunately, there were some, I think, that sensed this fear brought on by the combination of stereotype and Asperger’s Syndrome and played on it a bit and that left me open to some bullying. See the vicious cycle here? Fortunately, there were some African Americans who saw that I wasn’t that bad and offered the hand of friendship. That allowed me to realise that they all didn’t fit that stereotype. However, it did linger in the back of my mind for many years sending great anxiety through me whenever I crossed paths with an African American man.
What can be worse than someone who adheres to a stereotype about their group is one who contradicts a positive stereotype of it. Like I said in a previous post, when I first came to the UK, I thought all Britons were tolerant and left of centre. To top it off, I thought this would be particularly true of English metalheads. Therefore, when I was confronted by an intolerant Englishman at an Iron Maiden concert, I didn’t know how to respond because after all, I thought all English people were open minded and tolerant causing great levels of anxiety. The only thing I was able to do was just walk away from him but it did leave my mind very confused.
These anxieties increased a few weeks later after, when I was informed I wouldn’t be getting my veteran’s educational benefits and I openly declared that I hated America. I went to see the college chaplain who was known to be on the left. At least he held similar views to me on Regan’s Contra war in Nicaragua. However, I was taken back that after I told him I hated me country and wanted to emigrate to Sweden, he didn’t aid me in buying a plane ticket to Stockholm. The fact that he said I shouldn’t be quick to run away from America had me believing a redneck’s stereotype that all non-Americans are trying to get to the country. Again, it all left me feeling confused.
Of course, when you are put into a stereotype that you know you don’t belong, it can also cause great anxiety, at least it does for me. As an American living in the UK, I get this a lot but it does seem no matter how hard I try to show that I don’t fit those stereotypes, there is someone who insists on believing it, especially those in the less than ten percent margin I mentioned before. Some, like an ex girlfriend, seemed to be disappointed that I didn’t fit many of the stereotypes about Americans. It feels at times that I can’t win but fortunately, the vast majority of those in the UK have accepted me.
In conclusion, I think that believing stereotypes has had a negative impact on my Asperger’s Syndrome. That is why I do try to judge people as individuals although this isn’t always easy. I still won’t stop trying and hope people will do the same with me. I wonder what Mark Leversee would have thought.
Next post: A Few Things I Missed
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