Last Friday, a terrorist attack occurred in Portland. A local white supremacist had heaped verbal abuse on two young women, one of whom was wearing a hijab. Three men intervened to try to help these young women, and were violently stabbed. Those who stand up to hate, even at risk to themselves, deserve the title of hero. Tragically, two of these heroes, Rick Bestand Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, died of wounds sustained in the incident. The third, Micah David-Cole Fletcher, is now recovering from being stabbed in the neck after two hours of surgery to remove bone fragments from his throat. He is also openly Autistic.
As , Micah discussed his diagnosis in a 2015 profile in Venture Magazine, a literary publication affiliated with Mt. Hood Community College.
You got to understand that middle school was not a good point in my life at all,” Fletcher said. In fact, he was institutionalized for erratic anger. “It was a very dark center, so to actually have someone pick me and help me to write, it was one of the bright spots in my life at that point. I would be writing and that’s how I learned to process all these emotions that as an autistic child I didn’t understand what to do with…
…I’ll never forget, my favorite memory was the third time, I believe, I went to a slam,” Fletcher said. “This woman name Robyn Bateman comes up on stage and she’s an extremely talented poet and she starts doing this poem about this young man who’s autistic who she works with in this care center and she happens to be like this huge fan of hip-hop music as well and she goes on in this poem to describe him.
I can’t remember what she learned from him but her words were just so eloquent and so perfect for me at the time, because at that time I was very lonely. I kind of thought that I would never find someone like myself again because I also happen to be autistic and to hear this woman get up on stage and start talking about a person who’s basically another version of me…It was an incredibly powerful moment for me and an incredibly relieving moment for me,” he said.”
The shock of recognition Micah describes should be familiar to many of us in the Autistic community. Growing up on the autism spectrum can be isolating and lonely. There is power in those first experiences of connection to a larger whole. His words resonate tremendously for a simple reason: In describing his own experiences, Micah captures an essential aspect of Autistic culture, identity and life.
Micah is being recognized first and foremost for his willingness to stand up against murderous prejudice. He deserves to be known for his bravery. Better still, I hope Micah will come to be known for his poetry, his clear passion. With any luck, his talent in that area will be more widely recognized as a result of his courage.
The honor Micah deserves for putting his body in the path of violent prejudice is his and his alone. But we should also acknowledge Micah as an Autistic man, because in doing so we can help to dispel the myths and stigma that challenged him and all of us in growing up in a world that is too willing to define Autistic life in terms of fear or pity and never in terms of virtue.
Micah deserves a place in the conversation every time that some that should instead be blamed on political extremism. Keep Micah’s name in mind when those who should know better describe Autistic people as lacking empathy or the ability to care for others. Micah’s bravery should serve as part of the rebuttal when schools and workplaces resist including Autistic people out of fear and stigma.
If the media is to persist in trumpeting the real or imagined diagnoses of every shooter and stabber that can’t be easily pawned off on a convenient racial minority group, is it not reasonable for us to highlight Micah’s identity as an openly Autistic person when telling the story of his bravery? Autistic people, like all others, have our criminals – but we have our heroes too.
Some of you who have been in the Autistic community since its early days will recall the tendency then to posthumously diagnosis major historical figures as on the spectrum, sometimes with very questionable evidence. This was somewhat understandable – I remember what it was like growing up when there were few openly Autistic role models for our teenagers to look to. In those days, Autistic people who did reach great heights feared disclosure, correctly recognizing the condescension, disbelief and professional consequences that would come with it. In that context, it makes sense that we’d reach out to the past to try and find a source of pride, however tenuous the connection might be.
A lot has changed since then. Today, as our community has matured and a generation of Autistic people have grown up with the knowledge of their own existence as a part of a larger identity, we don’t have to diagnose the greats of yesterday anymore. We have our own role models and public figures who inspire us by their passion, their advocacy, their creativity, and their bravery in the face of danger. On Friday, Micah David-Cole Fletcher joined the pantheon of Autistic heroes.
Micah, we are inspired by your example and proud to have you as a member of our community. Thank you for your actions, and we can’t wait to read more of your poetry.
23 thoughts on “Micah David-Cole Fletcher, Autistic Hero”
In case the author wants to add timestamps for Micah’s performances, or others who make it down to the comments don’t want to sift through the entire video, he’s at 124:00 and 152:55.
No he’s not. Could you double check those numbers?
Yep, he’s at 2:32:40 or around there.
1 – Thankyou for the timestamps. That was exactly why I didn’t start a three hour + video at 1:am.
and 2 – I sure do hope you contacted Micah, to get his permission to out him… This seems like information that he might have offered, first, in his poetry, and interviews; that you might then have added to, with your experiences of him and the active community.
Just wondering, and feeling grateful.
That’s helpful, but it’s not how the time stamps are formatted for YouTube. If you don’t want to convert minutes into hours, the video actually starts at 2:04 and 2:32.
Thank you for your courageous actions, Micah. You did a wonderful thing by protecting those girls. ❤️
Thank you for your integrity and bravery in doing the right thing Micah! May you recover 100%. Thank you for your great example and love of your neighbor in the face of a very bad situation.
I would like to know what “openly autistic ” is. I never heard of autism being hidden. My son is 33 and has autism.
It’s really common for autism to be hidden. Either by an autistic person themselves, or their parents hide their diagnosis from them. Many, many autistic people feel that they need to hide or obscure the fact that they’re autistic because the stigma against autism is so bad, they fear–often rightfully–that they will experience employment discrimination or mistreatment by social services/medical professionals if anyone knows.
If someone is open or public about the fact that they’re autistic, then they are openly autistic. But many autistic adults are not.
Perhaps that he is open about his autism vs. some that don’t choose to share that with people.
It’s fairly common to hide it in an attempt to “seem normal”, or at least it was a decade ago when I was a teenager. Usually we try to hide it because of classmates’ stigma or because we don’t want to be associated with the “R” word. At this point, I still have to make an effort to pass as “NT” in professional or academic settings.
Not everyone discusses it.
There are a lot of us on the high functioning end of the spectrum who either choose not to disclose it to people or who choose to only disclose to a select few. The misunderstandings and stigmas surrounding autism tend to create problems sometimes when people who don’t understand what autism is begin treating you like a highly intelligent monkey or a rather bright three year old rather than speaking to you like an adult as they had right before finding out you’re on the spectrum. “Openly Autistic” basically just means he lest everyone know he’s on the spectrum rather than being selective or not telling.
Well I hide mine because of the way I’m responded to.
Amen to you Micah, amen.
What a bright and emboldening light…
Thanks for this post. Just a head up, it’s really hard to read your blockquoted area. The grey is very light.
I cannot believe I did not know about this brave autistic man until today. I must have read three stories about the bus incident and he is never mentioned. What shite. Thank you so much and we are definitely going to subscribe to this amazing informative blog. We love you Micah and hold you in our hearts for a safe recovery.
If you read early versions of the story, perhaps they were the ones which referred to a third man who was sent to the hospital with injuries. Identifying someone sent to a hospital becomes difficult for reporters because of health privacy laws, and until Micah or his family permitted identity and condition information to be released, the reporters may not have been able to confirm any information they had managed to get. Despite some people’s belief, news people follow laws and ethical standards. I have heard Micah’s name since early in the sequence of stories but this is the first reference to autism that I have read. And maybe that is entirely appropriate, because Micah’s bravery stems from his being a man of character. And that really does not require mention of wherever a person falls on the continuum of humanity.
Basically only health providers and health insurance providers have to follow HIPPA regs, not news providers. https://medicalboard.iowa.gov/images/pdf/HIPAA.pdf
God bless you for your fearlessness, Micah! Thanks NOS for sharing about this amazing person.