By M. Richard Horrell-Schmitz from www.youtube.com/aslnikki
The word Deaf is OUR word. It is OUR definition of OUR values. Deaf is OUR chosen moniker to signify OUR wholeness in a world that constantly tells us we are broken.
There are millions of people in this country, hundreds of millions, perhaps, who look at us as if we have gone mad for being proud to be “broken.” Yet they have consistently hijacked our community and run it their way! When we speak out and try to take back what is ours, when we stand up for our Deafhood, we are called “militant,” “aggressive,” and “jealous.”
There are many, many, ways in which the hearing and hearing-minded are using OUR word to their own ends:
- They deny the Deaf ASL as children, but produce the multi-million dollar Baby Sign video series for hearing babies. (Are there any Deaf people reaping such profit?)
- They force speech and hearing aids on us as children when we cannot fight it, then mock our “deaf-voices” as adults when we don’t sound as pretty as they would like.
- They make us take music to be more like them, yet they don’t take ASL poetry to be more like us.
- We are forced, OFTEN, to go without interpreters as children, yet when they take ASL Lit, and Deaf History at the college level they expect an English interpreter. (Yes, this is based in factual experiences for at least one California University.)
- They take HIGH paying VRS jobs and sit back and smugly “interpret” for our calls to employers who, if they hire us, do so grudgingly and pay us a fraction of what they make—capitalizing on OUR language and doing so as if they are better than us. (Note: there are MANY great interpreters who work for VRS, but FAR TOO MANY who have attitudinal and linguistic deficits.)
- They complain that the Deaf get “free tuition in college” yet, we are educated by THEM all through elementary and secondary school and are not prepared for college.
- They say that SSI is an abuse of the system and many Deaf “could work,” yet they do not hire us except for the most menial, lowest paying, and isolating jobs.
- They take university level jobs teaching ASL, but do so with an English-based or hearing-minded approach, and tell Strong Deaf people they are not qualified because they were not fortunate enough to be able to complete a PH.D. program at a hearing university.
- They teach ASL, yet speak English with their supervisors, students and each other thus alienating the Strong Deaf.
- The anti-ASL and anti-Deaf have taken over websites that were supposed to have been a haven for US to use and immerse ourselves in OUR language.
- They teach Deaf Education yet do not know ASL.
- They teach Deaf Education yet use an interpreter for meetings, IEP’s, and any chance they can so they don’t “have to” sign.
- They run Deaf Education programs—the interviews for which require one to SimCom for a requirement to teach, thus alienating the Strong Deaf from making an impact in mainstream Deaf Education programs.
- They run websites that are supposedly Deaf Centered, yet consistently compare themselves to other websites that are geared toward mass appeal—hearing websites with hearing values.
- They force us to behave in ways that are fitting with mainstream culture—hearing culture.
- They have a BILLION-dollar industry of hearing aids, cochlear implants and speech services . . . how much of that money ever goes into the pockets of the Deaf?
- They take roles in movies playing deaf (and dumb!) like a caricature of Deaf.
- They buy up and run companies that are service providers for the Deaf, but do not hire Deaf people to work there, except for the most menial of jobs.
- They run Deaf Studies and Deaf Education university programs and never set foot in a Deaf Culture center, school for the Deaf, or Gallaudet.
- · We are here for THEIR profit.
- · We are here for THEIR enjoyment.
- · We are here for THEIR job security.
- · We are here for THEIR sense of munificence.
They want us to be here when they think “signing” is pretty, and gone when we are a burden or too uppity. They like what we have, they take our jobs, our language, our values, but don’t want US to do it. To them, we are a novelty—a mascot, a cute little thing to stare at and examine—but a thing without feelings, hopes, dreams, aspirations, pride and culture.
Suppose one said chauvinism was acceptable because “women should be in their place anyway?” One is legally free to say that, yes, but would it be on a “Women-Centered” website? NO! Would it be legal in the workplace? NO! Suppose one said racism was acceptable because “Blacks are all uneducated?” One is legally free to say that, yes, but would it be on a “Black-Centered” website? NO! Would it be legal in the workplace? NO!
This could go on and on and yet, because of our status as “broken ones,” as “rejects,” as “disabled, as “disadvantaged,” they will not see it as harshly as the above comparisons.
And those of us who cater to them are nothing more than mask makers, craftsmen at creating Masks of Benevolence and handing them over to those same people who exploit the Deaf Community. We have a choice: we can take back our moniker and support only truly Deaf companies, websites, and schools, or we can shut up and get back to making masks. . . Choose wisely. . .