blogger web statistics

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Confusing new words

Ah, the wonders of the English language. Even before Google turned 10 years old, it earned itself an entry into the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, which is pretty much the authoritative English dictionary in my book. The act of "googling," verb, was to use a search to find information on the Web. That was back in 2001.... Google was incorporated in a garage near Stanford University, California, in September 1998. Talk about changing the world at light speed!

Now, in the hearing loss world, there's also new words being created all the time. One of them, that's actually been around for a while but is being adopted by the capital "D" deaf community is "Deafhood" Coined in 2003 by Paddy Ladd, the term has been aggressively used to rail against audism, which is a form of racism and discrimination against people who are deaf. I really want to talk about deafhood, but to understand deafhood, one must understand audism first.

Audism is currently being used as a rallying cry to fight back against "the man" as it were, the hearing world at large and those who view being deaf or having hearing loss as inferior to being able to hear. I've seen a lot of anger towards the hearing world stem from those deaf people who went to oral deaf schools growing up - such as Central Institute for the Deaf or St. Joseph Institute for the Deaf, both in St. Louis, MO. I don't believe that kind of anger is healthy, or even rational, and it pains me to see this anger being perpetuated by those loud deaf extremists.

There are absolutely audists in the world - those who think deaf people need to be "saved" from themselves, incapable of taking care of themselves, needing hearing people in order to do even basic tasks. Even interpreters are guilty of this - I know of people who grew up with the same sign language interpreter from elementary to high school, and the interpreter controlled every aspect of their life, from making sure they did their homework to filtering information to the student such as adding religious overtones to get the kid to go to church and stuff, thinking that is what everyone around him/her is saying. Can you imagine being told by a teacher "you've been bad Johnny sit there and think about what you've done" to the intepreter adding "sit there and pray and ask God for forgiveness." That's what I'm talking about.

I've gotten a little sidetracked. So, audism. The actions of some hearing people have lead a movement of deaf people to try a grassroots approach of "Deafhood." Deafhood has kind of taken on a bunch of different meanings to different people. I've seen:

1) Preservation of the uniqueness of Deaf Culture, especially as more deaf kids are being born to hearing parents
2) Protecting ASL from fading away, hindered by the Milan Convention of 1880
3) Fighting back against the evil oppressive hearing world

#1 and #2 are organic and will either thrive or decay based on, honestly, the population of hearing loss perpetuating themselves. We're not yet at the point of curing deafness, and at best we have tools to help give a leg up. I myself know sign, wear a cochlear implant, am a member of NAD/HLAA/AGBell/what have you. Some people will fit in better in other ways.

But #3 scares me. I'm uncomfortable with anger that, seems, frankly, misdirected. So maybe someone had a bad experience with one or more hearing people, or even other deaf people who don't consider themselves deaf (Ah - another term - "DeafLess" - used derogatorily by "D" deaf to put down someone they consider not to be a part of deaf culture). But that doesn't give license to, say, stage a 2nd "Deaf President Now" protest at Gallaudet University because the incoming President isn't "deaf enough" or that oral deaf schools should close down because it's preventing choices to deaf kids who will grow up resentful of what their parents did.

Oh, what brought this all up? This Friday in KC, there's a Deafhood Foundation meeting. I'm hoping it's not going to turn out to be a rally against the hearing world.... hopefully just a positive discussion on how to raise money and spread awareness. We'll see!

The world of hearing loss is a beautiful place. Sign language, music, visual poetry, captions, all that stuff - I love it. 10, 20, 50 years from now, I think we'll barely recognize deaf culture as it is today. The world has changed - the deaf community needs to change with it. I'm glad I got to see what an amazing world I live in!

1 comment:

  1. great post dude! I agree, especially about deafhood. I haven't had much encounters with audism, however.