Something like this happens:
1. I'm in college, in a psychology class, where the professor tells us that Autistic people don't care about other people. We only see them as objects to get something from. (She knows I'm Autistic and she's taught Autistic students before.)
2. A friend of my friend informs her that I will never care about her because I'm Autistic.
3. One of the most popular books in the world is about an Autistic character who doesn't care about people and wishes that everyone else in the world would die. I see people reading this book all the time, including people I'm close to, and it has been recommended to me so I can learn more about autism.
4. After a mass murder, I hear people speculating that the murderer must have been Autistic.
Something like this happens: my feathers are ruffled. I feel hopeless about life; I feel like I can't trust anyone. I want to confront the person who said something. I don't want to feel obligated to be nice to them. I feel betrayed if the person was someone I liked and trusted.
If I talk to anyone about this, most people respond calmly and cheerfully. Even close friends and family aren't hurt or angry on my behalf. They have no emotional reaction--they often seem a little bored that I've brought up something so trivial--and if they even intellectually condemn what happened, their focus is on telling me that it isn't so bad.
The person didn't mean it like that.
Well, a lot of people have that misconception about Autistic people. They just don't know any better.
I shouldn't be so sensitive. I should get over it.
They wouldn't think that if they got to know me.
Mysteriously, the last statement--a compliment--is the one that bothers me the most.
Why be modest? No one else is going to say anything good about me once they know I'm Autistic. So I'll admit that I'm a kind, caring person. It's certainly the way I am most often described by people who don't know I'm Autistic. As I leave a room I sometimes hear people exclaiming, "She is so sweet!" I always do my best to be kind and polite to everyone, I volunteer, and I've chosen to take care of other people for a living.
I'm pretty much as far from the Autistic stereotype as I could get. So yes, it is probably true that if certain people were forced to spend time with me, they would eventually have to admit that I care about other people, and maybe they'd even start to wonder if this is true for other Autistic people (but I doubt it; exceptionalism is a hell of a drug). Yet somehow this fact is completely inadequate and unsatisfying to me in every way.
For many people, there's a duality between disabled people--an abstract group--and the disabled person you know. People just cannot get their heads around the idea that ableism really does affect their disabled friend or family member. How can a nice pink-collar Manic Pixie Dream Girl like me possibly be affected by the idea that Autistic people are serial killers? I'm obviously not a serial killer if you get to know me!
The rub is obviously that most people don't know each other and that most acts of discrimination aren't committed between close friends or family members. I'm supposed to be comforted by the idea that my friends and family members know I care about other people, and completely desensitized to the fact that doctors, therapists, potential employers, police, judges, or jurors might think I don't.
Even if you put aside situations where I could be concretely hurt or disadvantaged because of those stereotypes, there's still the daunting task of having to convince new people in my life that I care whether they live or die. Specifically, the fact that it's completely horrible to assume I don't care about that; and the fact that I shouldn't have to prove something so simple; and the question of how, having proved I meet a minimum standard for decency, I'm supposed to settle down and be friends with someone who assumed I didn't.