As an advocate for racial equality and inclusion, I am writing you to express my concerns about the National Association of the Deaf’s decision to invite Governor Dennis Daugaard to give a plenary presentation at the NAD Conference this summer in Louisville. Governor Daugaard’s legislative record includes the passage of legislation that impede or outright deny the civil and human rights of women, LGBTs, and people of color.
On March 12, 2012, Governor Daugaard signed an anti-Muslim bill, HB 1253 which reads, “No court, administrative agency, or other governmental agency may enforce any provisions of any religious code. The reasons why this is unconstitutional may be found at this website. This should concern all of us for a number of reasons. First, although this bill is not overtly directed at Muslims, it was generated by Islamophobia in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
Islamophobia should especially concern you as organizations that advocate for the rights and inclusion of deaf people of color. Although Islam is a widespread faith practiced by people from all walks of life, Islam has been racialized in popular discourse. Due to fearmongering and mass media portrayals, Islam is now closely associated with south/west Asian brown skinned people. Furthermore, mainstream Americans cast a suspicious eye toward Islam during the 1960s and 1970s when Islam emerged in the African-American Civil Rights movement as African-Americans sought to reclaim the religion of their ancestors. Mainstream Americans associated Islam with the radicalization of the African-American Civil Rights movement. Americans have long had discomfort with Islam, not only because of theological differences but because they have associated Islam with non-white populations. The relationship between Islamophobia and Racism cannot be denied.
Governor Daugaard also signed into law on March 5, 2012 anti-abortion measures that limited a woman’s access to health care and reproductive rights. Those attacks on reproductive rights are often intertwined with attacks on poor women and women of color, women who have disproportionately lesser access to health care as compared to their white counterparts.
As affiliates to the NAD that represent deaf people of color, I urge you to make a stand for inclusion, equality, civil rights, and admonish the NAD for providing a prominent platform to a legislator who has actively legislated to narrow civil and human rights.