M. Richard Horrell-Schmitz
This blog is a response to a comment—the comment being riddled with audism—from a reader of a previous blog. The intent is NOT to start a war with this commenter (in fact I will not publish her username or real name) but, rather, to educate others about How Paternalism and Condescension Control and Oppress the Deaf Community.
We, the ASL Deaf community, have spoken frequently about how audism hurts our people, but, to those who have never experienced it first hand, this concept seems unfeasible. Why would someone ever wish to subjugate the Deaf? Indeed, WHY would anyone intentionally injure our community? In an earlier vlog, one of my first, I exposited a theory that there are two different kinds of audism: Deficit-Thinking-Audism, and Xenophobic-Audism. The former being based on pity, the latter on a fear or distain for Deaf behaviors, language, noises, and culture.
Below is the original comment posted on my previous blog, “Deaf Culture Hijacked: The Hearing-Minded Taking Advantage of the Word “Deaf” by a person, let’s call her Madam H:
Madam H. wrote, The word DEAF is simply a word, no-one owns it. There are inequalities in every section of society, many people are ‘broken’ (horrible term) but not deaf.
Your blog raises some excellent points but it still seems to class practically all of the hearing community as one enemy, regardless. We aren’t a collective any more than the deaf community are.
Deaf people exist in many forms, deaf from birth, by accident, and now by design .
If deaf people are so determined to exist within their particular exclusivity then they need to stop fighting each other and perhaps drop the hostility levels towards others outwith their circle. Being mocked by deaf people is just as crual as being mocked by hearing people.
Being ‘unbroken’ does not mean that you are not ‘flawed’ any more than being deaf makes you right.
Dear Madam H.;
1) In my previous blog, “Deaf Culture Hijacked: The Hearing-Minded Taking Advantage of the Word “Deaf”, I did not classify a “community” of hearing persons. In point of fact, I do not believe there IS one big culture of hearing persons. But let me make this point clear. Audism is not automatically found in all persons who hear. Audism is defined as: The notion that one is superior based on one’s ability to hear or behave in the manner of one who hears (Tom Humphreys, 1975).
Not all hearing people are audists. I would never have even alluded to such a way of thinking. However, ANY hearing person who has the hubris to join our community and take over/attempt to change/or think they need to “save us from silence” (i.e. Cochlear Implant factories churning our pseudo-hearing babies without thinking of the long term ramifications on the socio-emotional development of deaf children) is, simply put, audist. It is wrong to think that someone outside a culture could, not just join, share with, learn from, but LEAD that culture toward something more like their own. It is bigoted to do so and it hurts deaf people. And THOSE kind of hearing people—the AUDIST people, not, as you claimed I said, all hearing people—that we are resisting.
2) I did not use the term enemy to describe hearing people and never would. I did not even use the word enemy to define audists. But, as I described above, it IS wrong to take over a community to which you do not belong and attempt to change it.
Let’s look at some historical examples of this type of behavior: Whites trying to westernize the Indians because they deemed Native Cultures to be “savage.” The Catholic Church torturing and murdering recalcitrant Jews because of their belief system. Male psychiatrists encouraging husbands and fathers to have their wives’ and daughters’ female organs removed so as to alleviate hysteria—hysterectomy was believed to remove “female hysterical mood swings—thereby making them more male, more normal.” My point in this is that it is NOT hearing level that makes one abusive to the Deaf Community—not anymore than “all whites,” “all Catholics,” or “all males” are to blame for the aforementioned oppressions. It is not the hearing; rather, it is hearing-mindedness! It is AUDISM! To take over a community-not-your-own is utter hubris and should be stopped… No, eradicated.
3) The fact that you are telling the Deaf Community, a community-not-your-own, what to do “… they need to stop fighting each other and perhaps drop the hostility levels towards others out with their circle,” indicates that you fail to understand my article—the point of it being, we are sick and tired of hearing people telling us what to do and how to live! We don’t need outside influences any more than Native Americans need Whites, than Jews need Catholics, or women need men to tell them what to do and how to behave!
4) Let me just say, I am sick and tired of the way some hearing people bitch and moan that Deaf people reject them. We do NOT reject hearing people off hand. But when we do, those hearing people who have been “rejected” consistently claim it is because of their hearing level. That is, pardon my French, utter bull$#lt! Why do we reject some hearing people and embrace others? Simple; answer “hearing-minded-takeoverism,” better known as AUDISM! I repeat: I do NOT, nor does anyone I know in my large circle of friends, “REJECT hearing people based on their hearingness.”
Hearing people who hang with us, sign with us, marry into our community, become teachers of the Deaf, interpreters, ASL students, neighbors, people-at-the-local-gym, our CODA children, etc. and respect a Deaf Centered philosophy while addressing Deaf issues are sacred and beloved in our community! Many, many, many, many, of our closest friends and allies are hearing and wholly and deeply welcomed in our community. (On a personal note, my very best friend is hearing, my wife’s closest local friend is hearing, and my daughter’s “BFF” is a hearing girl—these hearing people are NOT AUDISTS and, their hearing levels mean NOTHING to us!).
However, those who try to change us (forcing SEE, TC and oralism on children) those who bastardize our values (teaching ASL as non-native signers themselves) and judge our behaviors, norms, customs (as in the case of the person who posted: “deaf people are retarded. You sound like WHAAAAOOOO OURRRRR” on my wife’s vlog—judging her for not having “intelligible speech”) and mocking our fears and reactions to oppression (as in this case), there is NO welcome. The ASL Deaf Community does not need or want those kinds of hearing people—AUDIST people—within our circle and will let them know it.
5) That we have infighting is a result of dysconcious audism—meaning, some of us grow up under a yoke of oppression and internalize a sense of inferiority—is because those who feel inferior come upon someone speaking out about our strengths, abilities, and “wholeness” those who have dysconcious audism don’t feel strong, able, and whole, due to their educational, familial, and cultural deprivation (having been deprived of a feeling of normality in a Deaf Way) feel that hearing ways are inherently better or superior. Again, it is a product of hearing-minded-takeoverism, or audism. Left alone, there is much more cohesion in our community. In fact, there is far more cohesion in the Deaf world, than there is in the “religious world” the “sports world” and the “political world.” You assume I am talking about “all people who can’t hear.” When, in fact, I was referring to D (capital D) Deaf Culture. You say we are infighting because you lumped all “hearing impaired” persons into one group. That is irresponsible argumentation as much as it is irresponsible to lump all religious people into one group. Of COURSE there is division! Of COURSE there is disagreement. But in the DEAF WORLD, the ASL DEAF world, there is a SUBSTANTIAL sense of cohesion.
6) “The word Deaf is just a word…” This is just silly. All words are “just words” until someone attaches emotional ties thereto. i.e. The words Nazi, hatred, murder, and jealousy are just words, but they are powerful symbols of the worst parts of humanity. They are powerful words because we, as humans, have attached powerful meanings thereto. The words mother, love, beauty, and peace are, too, just words, but they are evocative of harmonious, joyful times for many people. The word Deaf is “just a word” to you because you are not. It is beautiful, powerful, and sacred to many who understand the connotations of what(capital D) Deaf means.
7) Finally, “Being ‘unbroken’ does not mean that you are not ‘flawed’ any more than being deaf makes you right.” Wow… What a slap in the face. Your sentence assumes that I believe I am right simply because of my deafness and that you are not looking for the content of my character. Implying that there is NO validity to my experiences, my research, my community involvement, my years of teaching, or even my graduate degree—that “just because i am Deaf, I think I am right.” That is a very telling statement. That is pure audism.
Madam H., try to examine your presuppositional thinking and then ask yourself why you feel rejected in the Deaf community–because of your hearing, or because of your audism? Because you are a hearing person, or because of your paternalism and condescention?
In closing, Madam H. please DO analyze your presuppositional thinking and examine your behaviors and words before assuming it is your hearing level that is being judged. It may well be that your ears have nothing to do with the sense of rejection you mentioned and, in fact, may be purely based on the content of your character.