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Deafhoodism - a Deaf status quo regarding Deafhood; a system of Deaf beliefs accepted as authoritative where acceptance and, sometimes, blameless actions toward other deaf and hard of hearing individuals outside of Deaf culture would be required. It is also a self-discovery oriented process involving sustained meaningful interaction with and commitment to, Deaf social, cultural and/or political life where a deaf or hard of hearing person would become a Deaf person someday.
Ever watched a classic thriller called "The Shining" where the character played by Jack Nickolson becomes increasingly more paranoid and violent where he, a family man, ends up trying to kill his own wife and son with the famous scene of him hacking through a locked door with his evil grin screaming "Here's Johnny!" ? The movie reminds me of the current actions going on between various deaf, hard of hearing, hearing and Deaf people regarding the definition and concept of "Deafhood" and who is using it to further their own personal agenda whether good or bad with all the "isms" in between.
Ironically, the movie is a thinly disguised reminder about "the murder of a race - the race of Native Americans - and the consequences of that murder." It is also about racism which wasn't too apparent in the movie. Bill Blakemore says it well in exploring the movie's hidden meanings which touches upon the idea of colonialism and what the British and Americans have done.
Though he has made here a movie about the arrival of Old World evils in America, he is exploring most specifically an old question: Why do humans constantly perpetuate such "inhumanity" against humans? That family is the family of man.
In other words, why do others attack their own people? Sounds very cannibalistic to me.
Colonialism. What is it? It's basically about power over those who have little or no power. It's the ability to spread ideas, concepts and cultures while erasing, oftentimes, over others'. Paddy Ladd says that in order to understand "Deafhood" you have to understand colonialism first.
The concept of colonialism is central to understanding Deafhood, to understanding what has been done to us. And both also helps us point us towards some models of what to do and what to avoid.
But there is this matter of "us" and who those people are regarding the supposed and real oppression at various levels over time by the hearing society. I see this "us" as generally those belonging to a class of people with greater hearing loss versus those with less hearing loss. One class of people may feel that oppression is indeed real and does occur (or have occurred) to them while others may see little or no oppression issues. It probably has to do with the ability to communicate with the hearing society. Discrimination? You bet. Oppression? Maybe. Depends on who you ask like those in the U.K versus the United States for example as stated by Paddy Ladd.
In the UK, signing skills are much less valued or appreciated as a means of defining 'Deaf'. More important here is the proof that one is taking action to support the whole community, whether through national politics or humble local community work.
A question here. Does Gallaudet University practice "oppression" on purpose when they establish an admission requirement that hearing loss must be greater than 55 decibels, I believe, for new incoming undergrad students? If this whole "Deafhood" extends to anybody with a hearing loss, why "oppress" those by preventing them from attending Gallaudet University if they want the opportunity to learn and "actualize" their Deaf identity? Paddy Ladd defined "Deafhood" as
...a process by which Deaf individuals come to actualize their Deaf identity, positing that these individuals construct that identity to their heightened forms by various factors such as nation, era, and class.
It's either the Deaf community as a whole practice what they preach about "Deafhood" or they don't. However, this whole "Deafhood" jabberwocky (according to some people) is pretty much touted and explained extemporaneously by mostly Deaf people who also may share the same deep seated fear about their Deaf culture being wiped out as explained by Paddy Ladd.
We are faced with new colonialist forces which aim to wipe Deaf people from the face of the Earth. Even though this cannot be achieved of course, the damage they will wreak in the process needs to be confronted by us. But let us also present the positive reasons why Sign Language Peoples are here on Earth - for what we can teach hearing people about the full beauty of life.
New colonialist forces? Perhaps in Britain where Paddy Ladd lives but in the United States? What Ladd failed to see is that, just like the Indians, marginalized groups have managed to survive by turning a negative into a positive result. The Deaf community of 900,000 in the United States has become a strong and potent force to deal with but perhaps a bit reckless at times. Also, as long as there are no laws stating that all babies born with a hearing loss must have it cured should biotechnology at the time make it possible. Otherwisel Deaf culture and Deaf people will surely be threatened and will not be able to survive in keeping with the genetic tradition of passing down deaf genes. But let me touch upon this "new" colonialist forces here.
Let's mind the fact that the United States is the sole country seen as having the best technological and social resources (e.g. ADA, IDEA education, relay operators, minority rights, support groups, grassroots organizations, etc) unrivaled by any other country around the world with the possible exception of Canada. As for technology we have the ever expanding internet technology, text paging, internet video relay, telephone relay operators, the constant improvements on text-to-speech or speech-to-text software, TTY, Instant Messaging such as AIM, YAHOO or MSN, e-mail, blogs and vlogs, video cell phone such as Sidekick or Blackberry, cell phones with text messaging capability, wireless communication device between deaf and hearing people, web cams, hearing aids, cochlear implants, implantable hearing aids, smaller and faster computer chips, closed captioning on television shows, closed captioning on DVDs, open captioning in movie theaters, software programs that have the ability to "translate" one foreign language into another, and even a software that is being developed that can detect sign language motions and convert the motions into readable texts and eventually one day be able to transcribe ASL motions into spoken or written English. The biggest irony in all this technology? These devices and technological advances were made and done mostly by hearing people to the benefit of deaf and hearing people increasing their total indepedency many folds. Damn those hearies!
Now, it is one thing to say that the deaf and hard of hearing people are at an unfair advantage in other countries. But compare that advantage in America where we see that the ease of communication between hearing and deaf people has been increasing ever since the turn of the century. The United States has spoiled us with the increasing number of "deaf-friendly" technologies and services that would put the rest of the countries outside of the United States to shame. Technology is primarily the key in helping shatter that glass ceiling and communication barrier. In the future it wouldn't matter which type of technology one chooses, communication between deaf and hearing would become absolutely seemless and effortless. And all this could be done while keeping deaf culture alive and running while keeping their independency intact.
As for "The Shining" moments we're seeing here, some people have used "Deafhood" both as a shield (i.e "It's a Deaf thing, you gotta sign first") and a lance (e.g. "deficit thinkers" or "deficit thinking") against those who may disagree with the concept and philosophy as well as the many seemingly different definitions of "Deafhood."
Now, sometimes it is hard for people to speak up when they are easily intimidated or discouraged by those who have the habit of attacking them rather than the argument itself. I have no problem speaking out my mind when I have questions to ask in my hour of musings on my blogsite and I welcome those who want to contribute in a constructive way. This is how we learn. I have a simple rule for people who want to leave their comments on my blog, "No whining, foul language or idiocy allowed on premise." So far, I've only banned two commenters after requesting numerous times not to attack other people personally for their comments. In short, I, too, do not take to "cyber-bullies."
The latest and newest deaf and hh blogsite called "DHH-CommUNITY" operated by several deaf and hard of hearing women. Their goal is to provide a supportive forum where intimdation by other commenters/posters against other people or group is not wanted since such intimidation tactics do not help a discussion in the first place. People don't learn much from shouting matches filled with insults, threats and expletives. As a result, many posters do not want to put down their own real names and instead use pseudo-names because of the well known nature of how some Deaf people may react unfavorably to opinions or ideas they don't like to hear. The Deaf community is a tightly knit and fairly small community where back-stabbings and gossipings are perceived to be as an accepted norm by many, sadly though,. This has hurt and ruined people's lives in the process.
Now, the DHH-CommUNITY blogsite does not condone cyber-bullying. In fact, there are ways how one can protect him/herself from a cyber-bully but the owners of the DHH-CommUNITY are proactive in taking steps to delete comments that are by nature intended to intimidate people rather than to contribute to discussion. Sometimes banning an IP address may be the only answer if the offending poster continues with his/her intimidation tactics by attacking the person rather than the arguments. Such measures are not in the same realm as violating free speech. If one cannot present a cogent response without resorting to violent responses, then that person need to go elsewhere. A simple rule for the sake of everybody else is what I see. This way we can move forward to help solve an age old dilemma on how to encourage communities of Deaf, deaf and hard of hearing people come together to attack problems, not create them. Positive image and positive works reap a much bigger reward.
See DEAFHOODism Part I and Part II.