By Matthew Rushin with His Friends & Family
In January of 2019, Matthew experienced loss of consciousness and had a serious car accident that would result in being charged with two counts aggravated malicious wounding and being given a 50-year prison sentence with 40 years suspended. This meant that Matthew would have to spend ten years in prison because of the accident.
“Matthew would have to spend ten years in prison because of the accident.“
Prior to being incarcerated, Matthew states, “I wasn’t consciously aware of being autistic and how often I have to ‘correct’ myself so I can coherently continue a conversation. It took me seeing that I was thrown into performing and pantomiming personalities to fully realize that I really do have this mental… aberration.” This phenomenon is called autistic masking, or performing as if “neurotypical” to accommodate the communication styles and behaviors of non-autistic people.
Acknowledging his mind was an “aberration,” though, he states, “That’s what being autistic is, to me. A mental deviance from what is considered to be a normal mind. I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing, though. I’ve come to love and appreciate my awkwardness, because in many instances, it’s saved me. In others, it might have made me stick out like a sore thumb, but I prefer being different and being who I am over being normal. I like not being normal.”
“I prefer being different and being who I am…I like not being normal.”
Matthew wasn’t always so accepting of his differences, but he’s come to a place where he loves living authentically. He reflects that he was able to make the right friends and build a relationship with his girlfriend because he stopped trying to “mask.” It filtered out the people who would have judged him negatively for being different and screened in those who would love him for being unique.
He values his girlfriend and best friend, who have continued to faithfully stand by him every day through this difficult time. He says of them, “They love that I can only see the truth of what something is, or was. They value my logic and reasoning. They appreciate my ability to see a myriad of things as they are, and not what others have made them to be.”
“People are too distracted by the flourish of a flower to notice the beauty of the leaves.”
Matthew values honesty and authenticity in all things, especially in connections. He likes to see people beyond the layers of social plastic that they impose on relationships. He’s humble and able to embrace others without “positive” and “negative” value judgements, appreciating them for who and where they are. He writes often about how people are too distracted by the flourish of a flower to notice the beauty of the leaves.
Since Matthew was charged, his mother Lavern Rushin, Black Lives Matter 757, and the CEO of Neuroclastic, Terra Vance, have been working tirelessly to get justice for Matthew. Autistic adults from around the world, Black Lives Matter activists, and other supporters have signed the petition, spread the word, protested, spoken out, and more. In November 2020, after submitting a request for a pardon, Lavern Rushin and Matthew’s other supporters received the news that Matthew would receive a pardon.
Currently, although Matthew has received a pardon from Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, he is still incarcerated. The pardon he received is conditional and still includes a prison sentence, despite the fact that Matthew has health conditions that need treatment and care. What his supporters have feared, has happened: Matthew tested positive for COVID-19 and he has been moved to the red zone at the correctional facility. Matthew’s supporters are currently trying to get Matthew home as soon as possible, or at the very least, have him transferred to a full-service hospital to monitor his COVID symptoms and underlying conditions including Asthma, brain cyst which has been untreated for 2 years, TBI, and possible seizures.
“Matthew’s supporters are trying to get him an earlier release to get him the care he needs for his COVID-19 and underlying conditions. Prison is not the place to treat COVID patients.”
Here’s how you can help:
- Contact key Virginia officials:
Governor Ralph Northam – Ralph.Northam@governor.virginia.gov or CALL: (804) 786-2211
Rita Davis, Counsel to Governor Northam – Rita.Davis@governor.virginia.gov
Kelly Thomasson, Secretary of the Commonwealth – Kelly.firstname.lastname@example.org or CALL: (804) 786-2441
- Contribute to the GoFundMe for legal and expert fees: Matthew’s family still needs financial assistance for legal expenses; for food, clothing and incidentals for Matthew while he is incarcerated; and for medical care for Matthew when he is released.https://www.gofundme.com/f/SAVING-MATTHEW-RUSHIN
- Sign the petition by Black Lives Matter 757 http://chng.it/pn56dMG48J
- Spread the word! Matthew’s story can be accessed in full at https://freematthewrushin.com. Share this story with your friends, family, and social media contacts. Contact your own local representatives, your state or country representatives, and share with them, too. Use Matthew’s story to influence reform to protect disabled individuals, including those with invisible disabilities like autistic people, from being exploited and criminalized.
- Learn about autism and the experiences of Black autistics directly from Black autistics. If you’re not sure where to start, check out the list of autistic BIPoC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) content creators on Autistic, Typing’s Facebook page.
Images provided by Lavern Rushin
Go Back to Issue 18 Home
Read more articles on the Black autistic experience beyond the hashtags in Issue 18 of Zoom Autism Magazine.
- Why are Black Disabled Activists Being Ignored or Forgotten? by Anita Cameron
- Autistic While Black and the Case of Matthew Rushin – #FreeMatthewRushin
- We Believe…In the Right to Exist by Elizabeth Roy
- Why the Social Model Will Not Save Us and “Disability Rights” Aren’t Intersectional by Tiffany Hammond
- What Does it Mean to Feel Safe? Intro by Rose Sutton
In Every Issue
- Editor Letter – Black Autistic Lives Matter: Beyond the Hashtags by Elizabeth Roy
- Cummings and Goings: Working Together to Fix the System by Conner Cummings
- 5 Must-Read Books by Black Autistic Authors by Adriana White
- THE VIEW FROM HERE: “I am Just Going to Be Me” by Jasmine Sutton with an update from Daniel Derrico
Discover More Zoom Issues
- Archived issues on the Zoom Home Page