Deaf community extremists become unglued over “isms”

You’ve a brain. Decide for yourself.

THE GUERRILLA ANGEL REPORT — Not on board the deaf community’s “ism” bandwagon? Don’t worry, most of us aren’t either, and you’re not missing anything too important. For all the ranting and rambling over “isms”, deaf people DO have legal recourse against discrimination. The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) is an attorney’s weapon of choice and the Social Security Administration’s definition of deafness being among the most debilitating of disabilities is a pretty hefty safety net for D/deaf Americans when it comes to equality, jobs, benefits and one’s general well-being.

A small fraction in the Deaf academic community believes there is an organized conspiracy among hearing people to oppress the deaf — hence the invention of the word “audist” a while back. Then, as now, not all in deaf academia believe that to be true — esteemed Gallaudet educator of the deaf Donald F. Moores summed it up best not too long after the word was first coined: “I don’t believe there is an audist establishment, but there are audist individuals.”

Dr. Moores is spot-on as there are individuals, for whatever reason, are bent on oppressing some deaf people — no amount of public awareness can stop some of them, however, after the fact, they can be dealt with using the court system armed with the weapons mentioned earlier.

But an organized conspiracy among hearing people to oppress the deaf? I don’t think so. Unfortunately, the extreme fraction precludes this topic from ever reaching the table for discussion. Individuals questioning Deaf “isms” tenets, whether in public, or on social media and blogs are subject to ridicule and ad hominem attacks. Some prevent the topic from being considered a matter of discussion through the use of rhetoric and academic terminology nonsense to distract and confuse people.

Hell, yes, it’s easy to get on board a bandwagon fighting against supposed oppressors of the deaf, but once aboard, you become part of a choir, blind to the world except for the view expressed by a bandleader. And sometimes, the bandleader is as blind as you are.

We’re all blessed with the ability to do critical thinking. Make up your own mind about these things.

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6 replies

  1. ADDITIONAL INFO:

    A review of [Harlan Lane's 1992 book] “Mask of Benevolence” by Donald F. Moores is the source of Moore’s quote in my article.

    Tom Humphries coined the word “audist” in 1975 which lay dormant until Lane’s book in 1992. The meaning of the word “audist” has changed often (to fit the issues of the moment) by various writers, but it is Lane’s “establishment” version that is most discussed in academia.

    Currently “audist” is used as a catchall phrase by laymen and some in academia to dismiss counterpoints to their arguments and claims. Indeed, the specific meaning of “audist” and “audism” can be wide and varied as the number of people you ask to specifically describe the term.

    As a result of this article, Donald F Moores is being shredded in the blogosphere by deaf extremists– ad hominem attacks on him personally to discredit his quote rather than to debunk it academically.

    But Moores is a long time editor and writer of scholarly material on deaf education to easily dismiss his findings.

  2. Many of us have waged a battle against whati s an atypical American obsession of making every issue an ism. Most of it is paranoia basically, how do explain to the paranoid or reason with them ? Deaf extremists are a pitiful minority, however they gain credence by exploiting fear amongst deaf people “Everyone has it in for them..” and suggesting the reason for non-equality, and non-acceptance is hate based and a conspiracy by hearing people. To this end, they will oppose access and promote isolation.

  3. I think my only question is why is deaf coverage in the ADA sufficient to eliminate the societal existence of this particular species of ablism, but numerous laws and precedents which favour (because we haven’t beaten that whole cissexist thing) cis women and CAFAB people in enforcement and resources do not?

  4. If you look at the 1889 Royal Commission on Education for the Blind and Deaf and Dumb (UK), you would find it difficult to state that there is no such thing as institutional audism. There are hundreds of pages of interview data available on line and the inquiry was biased towards communication using oralist means. The main advisor to this inquiry, although he didn’t lead it, was Alexander Graham Bell.

    In the UK, we had the Stephen Laurence report which stated that the police force was institutionally racist. I believe America had similar problems with racism. Interestingly, services to deaf people who use sign language vary across the country, where some places show greater acceptance of sign language (i.e. Leeds) and other not so (i.e. Oxford). This postcode lottery on services seem to indicate an institutional audism

    Similarly we have yet to see a sign language user on a jury or elected as an MP or as a Professor of an academic department. One might construe that there is a lack of deaf people ready to adopt these positions or their education is so bad that they are unable to attain these positions. But the argument of institutional audism is also valid and plausible.

    I agree that there probably isn’t a vendetta against certain groups of deaf people but that is not where institutional audism is evidenced. It is the general cultural norms hearing people follow, which are generally discriminating deaf people and they need to undertake a cultural shift. The Post Office is a great employer of deaf people in the UK but I saw, when I visited a few years ago, managers calling deaf employees, “my deaf boys”, which was demeaning but yet it was the norm.

    I can understand the author of this article can not see audism because it doesn’t happen to them, but it doesn’t mean it does not exist.

  5. As a recent graduate of Gallaudet’s Deaf Studies department, I find your illustration a bit off the mark. Not everyone with a Deaf Studies degree is an extremist. As you note, it is a small fraction of the academic community that feels this way – certainly not all DST grads. (I also want to point out that some extremists are not part of the academic community at all.)

    Extremists exist, but your illustration in conjunction with this article paints all Deaf Studies students as extremists, which is simply untrue.

  6. I’m glad you commented. Until this point I was wondering if there was a rational thinker among your DS colleagues.

    Yes, a small fraction of academic community are extremists, but in the DS academic arena, it is considerably higher.

    And yes, it is true some of the extremists are not part of the academic community, however they are edged on by those in the academic community, particularly by Deaf Studies grads/former students. Even if you were to disagree with me on this point you have to concede that the academic community has done a poor job of educating people of how one goes about dissemination information being shared by DS grads (ie: the meaning of the phrase “ad hominem”, and proper debate protocol).

    As for the cartoon, it would be a good idea to post it in the DS dept. chair’s office, so that DS colleagues can ponder “what are we doing so wrong that causes some in our community to react like this?”

    Thanks for your comments.

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