Pardon my grammar errors here. I wrote in a hurry. Below is Alison Fargis’ response and my response to her.Alison Fargis · Vassar
Octavian · Works at Currently UnemployedAnd your point is, Alison? Those books are at least accurate. This is not. And we also have to examine who the authors/creators are and what they understand about the language and the cultural politics that surrounds the language. You are clearly not paying attention to the issues being raised. This is NOT about dirty language. This is about cultural appropriation, sexism/misogyny/racism, and a boatload of issues that others have gone to great lengths to explain. If you’re going to defend this, especially as the literary agent involved, it would be wise to take the time to read through all of this and undertake some education about what African-Americans, Native Americans, and other minority groups have said regarding cultural appropriation. This is mockery and exploitation.
Alison Fargis Furthermore, your response shows that you know absolutely nothing about sign language, deaf people, or cultural issues. It is irresponsible, as an literary agent, to try to peddle a work without being at minimum aware of the potential fallout. Would you try to peddle a book written by a white man mocking black women and making caricatures out of black women? There’s a reason why that’s no longer acceptable- because African Americans and their allies have spent the last century or so fighting racism and we all know racism is not cool, not acceptable, and basically political suicide. At least when it’s overt. You know what this is called, Alison? AUDISM. ABLEISM. And one day, we will all realize it’s equally uncool, unacceptable, and political suicide. Especially when it’s as overt as this book/Henson is being. But because disabled people and deaf people’s struggles are more recent and because scholars have not given much thought to disability studies and the disabled experience, people can’t equate that to racism and sexism.
Posts tagged ‘ableism’
I’m doing this because I care deeply for all my brethren. By brethren, I refer to all deaf, hard of hearing, and those who choose to identify as hearing impaired. I do not want to focus on “labels” because that veers into the territory of identity politics. Here’s a comment I saw earlier today…”I’m severely hard of hearing and all this deaf/hearing/asl competition over cultures and languages is really getting old. I’m tired of the Deafy Nazis..they can “Have” their culture.”
My heart breaks for people who see themselves as victims rather than as survivors of the existing systems of power, privilege, and oppression. This intracommunity division exists because some of us have internalized ideas from the dominant majority that we are objects to be “fixed,” that we are inherently bound for failure and limited lives, and that we are somehow lesser than others. So many have adopted the idea that the only way we can be “equal” is if we are normalized and assimilated into the majority- as in being able to communicate orally and achieve flawless English, at the expense of other aspects of our Selves.
This is not an experience unique to the deaf community. In other non-dominant population groups, we see similar processes of assimilation, internalized oppression, and intracommunity division. Some have so deeply internalized the message of the dominant majority that they turn on each other. A little snippet from another website:
“There are two ways that internalized oppression functions:
2. Internalized oppression occurs among members of the same cultural group. People in the same group believe (often unconsciously) the misinformation and stereotypes that society communicates about other members of their group. People turn the oppression on one another, instead of addressing larger problems in society. The results are that people treat one another in ways that are less than fully respectful. Often people from the same cultural group hurt, undermine, criticize, mistrust, fight with, or isolate themselves from one another.”
My message to those who feel they are marginalized by the “Deafy Nazis”: I see you as my brethren. I am fighting the fight for you too, not just those who are Deaf ASL-Users, but for all deaf and hard of hearing people who ultimately are affected by systematic audism and linguicism. I am determined to battle systems of oppression that has potential to limit our access to mainstream society and full citizenship. I am resisting systems of oppression that limits deaf children’s access to language, education, and ultimately economic opportunities. I am tired of seeing our language, our bodies, our culture being exploited for profit by colonizers. I am tired of seeing deaf children turn into bitter adults. I am saddened to see deaf adults not have a sense of belonging. My resistance is centered on those systems of power, not against my fellow deaf/hard of hearing brethren. I may disagree with your positions or your politics. My intent is to educate and raise consciousness but I do not have any interest in excluding you from this community, this culture, or American Sign Language.
I see some people in our community attacking each other rather than focus on the systems of power, especially the medical-industrial complex and clueless education policy-makers, for putting us in the position where we do not have first-class citizenship.
I suspect that those who are referred to as the “Deaf Nazis” or the “deaf militants” are those who feel passionately about advancing the place of deaf people in mainstream society. I cannot speak for everyone else but I can speak for myself and those with whom I work. We are not rejecting those who are not fluent in ASL or do not buy into deaf culture nor making claims on ASL and deaf culture as being exclusively ours. We feel passionately that all deaf children should have full access to language and education, to be seen as whole beings beyond their ears, and to have access to a community of people who share the deaf experience and share the challenges of audism. We are not attacking you for the decisions that were made by medical professionals interested in curing/fixing you or turning a profit, by education policy makers who do not understand our unique needs and challenges, and by well-meaning parents who made difficult decisions based on what they were told was best. When we attack those systems, we are not attacking you, the byproducts of that system. There is not a separate “you” and “us.” This is about all of us regardless of identity politics.
I can understand why some deaf/hard of hearing people feel personally attacked when deaf activists agitate against oral education, cochlear implants, and so on. We do not hold deaf/hard of hearing people responsible for decisions made by others when they were children. But we do hold deaf/hard of hearing people responsible for the decisions they make as adults. When consciousness has been raised, one can no longer avoid responsibility for the choices they make in being a victim or survivor, or their choice in victimizing their own brethren using the ideology of the systems in power.
What drives my passion? Here’s a little story I want to share with you excerpted from an older post.
I went to the Deaf Community Services center this afternoon for an employment-related interview. While in the waiting room, I watched a DCS produced video. This video asked the question: “why I love DCS.” The respondents were apparently selected at random, their responses unedited and unscripted.
At the end of this video, two little girls, about 8-10 years of age, appeared. One said, “DCS helps me get ready for school so that I can have a successful future.” Her friend responded, “heh, heh. If we can! Heh. Heh,” while shrugging.
Heartbreaking. Tragic. Illuminating.
I wonder. Does this little girl question her ability to be a successful adult because she is deaf and she has somehow internalized the idea that deaf adults are generally not successful? Is she, as a deaf pupil, told she will struggle because of literacy and linguistic acquisition?
Or is she, like the Dove commercial on television, one of the majority of girls who drop out of what they enjoy doing because they are insecure about themselves as girls growing into women? Is she, as a female pupil, told that she cannot succeed in the sciences and math because boys are simply better at those subjects?
Or is it all rolled into one as a deaf female? We cannot separate out precisely the moment, those experiences, those messages she received as a girl, as a deaf child, and as a deaf girl, that she had to question whether or not she would succeed. What disempowers this child? Her femalehood or her deafhood? How do those disempowerments nurture each other?
This illustrates why we cannot separate out the experience of being deaf from other facets of our existences.
This is why we must combat all forms of privilege and work for true equality for all. We cannot separate those threads out; we cannot empower an individual by empowering one aspect while neglecting to empower the whole.
This letter will be submitted to Huffington Post to address errors and misconceptions in Courtney O’Donnell’s Article Published Today, May 30.
Correction of Errors in “Anti-LGBT Rights Governor to Speak at Prominent Deaf Civil Rights Group’s National Conference” article.
Courtney O’Donnell and Editors of the Huffington Post,
I am Octavian Robinson, the original author of the post at Deaf Politics and the blogger behind the blog site referenced in Ms. O’Donnell’s article in HuffPost. I am writing to clarify errors and misconceptions in her article, “Anti-LGBT Rights Governor to Speak at Prominent Deaf Civil Rights Group’s National Conference.”
First, Ms. O’Donnell states in her article that the NAD organized the luncheon for LGBTs and announced a new LGBT equality policy in response to our objections surrounding Governor Daugaard’s invitation to speak at the NAD.
Allow me to quote from my own article, “Hosting this luncheon then turning around and inviting an anti-gay speaker speaks volumes to your commitment to equal treatment for your membership.”
Kindly note the placement of the word, “then.” The luncheon was arranged long before Governor Daugaard’s invitation. Our objection lies in the context that the LGBT population of the NAD has been struggling for a long time to combat marginalization within the organization. The NAD leadership assured us they were serious about that by establishing a GLBT (that is the acronym they use although it is not stylistically proper) Equality Team and by organizing the luncheon.
Then they turned around and invited a legislator who has actively circumvented the LGBT’s community efforts to achieve marriage equality. This lent to the sense that the NAD was not serious about equality and rather was giving us “lip service” in not carefully making decisions that reflected its commitment to equal inclusion of all members.
To the second portion of the erroneous statement, the NAD did issue a statement supporting marriage equality. Is that the “LGBT equality policy” you are referring to? Otherwise, I am unaware of such a policy that has been released in response to this situation.
Second, it is not the only LGBTs who are raising concerns about the leadership at the NAD. This is symptomatic of a larger problem that centers on all marginalized populations within the organization including women and people of color. We must recognize that it is a broad coalition of individuals within the deaf community and their allies that are speaking out as to the NAD’s commitment to inclusion.
Third, your statement about the South Dakota School for the Deaf shows a limited understanding of the true issues surrounding schools for the deaf, their closure, and the political implications of such decisions. By claiming that deaf school closures are exclusively economic, this is a claim that denies how deeply and intimately connected all forms of marginalization are to political decision-making.
Allow me to illuminate how closures of schools for the deaf are shaped by racism and classism.
The closure of deaf schools has a close relationship with issues surrounding race and class. Closing schools for the deaf are not exclusively about economics. Closing deaf schools is not a purely economic decision. The political right often veils racist, sexist, and classist legislation as decisions of economic and fiscal responsibility. But anyone familiar with the issues surrounding schools for the deaf will tell you that deaf education is closely intertwined with class and privilege. That schools for the deaf are now increasingly serving students of color, students from low-income backgrounds, and students from deaf families. Oralism and deaf education are closely tied to class, race, and privilege. Those schools, along with every other program that serves women, people of color, and the disabled are being subjected to funding cuts. Those cuts are justified as economically and fiscally necessary, but one cannot deny the burden of spending cuts fall within arenas where they most affect affect women, people of color, people from low-income backgrounds, or the disabled or taxes being raised. There is an undercurrent of racism and sexism in debates surrounding taxation that can be traced to the tax and property rights revolution of the 1970s.
You cannot separate issues of race, class, ability, and gender from political decision-making. Nothing is purely economic. That includes the schools for the deaf. This demonstrates that we must always cast a critical eye to the decision making processes undertaken by politicians and leaders, including the leadership of the NAD, to ensure that those decisions do not somehow have underlying factors of privileges surrounding race, class, gender, or socioeconomic status.
I hope I have made myself adequately clear on this subject. While I appreciate you have brought attention to an important issue and highlighted our struggles with eliminating marginalization within the deaf community, I think you have done our cause a disservice by not representing the facts or our positions with care.
Our issues are far too large to adequately cover in this letter, but I invite you to carefully examine our issues, read all the posts, and talk to individuals intimately involved in the issue before doing any further reporting on the issue.