Posts tagged ‘courtney o’donnell’

Deaf School Closures are Connected to Racism and Classism

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.


T. Robinson