Sunday, January 24, 2016

Guest blog - re Identity in Deaf Culture

My cousin David was kind enough to read my last blog and provide his feedback.  i found it so helpful and insightful I wanted to dedicate a page to it - and here it is.  For context, read my blog on Identify in Deaf and Black culture first.  Enjoy!

Hello Katie, here are my comments…

Oliver Sacks did something similar, he was a trained neurologist who did not start out with much experience or knowledge of deaf culture.  Nevertheless he took the time and care to research it and came out with a fairly decent book, Seeing Voices.  I saw him on the book tour when he came to UC Berkeley actually (this was 1989 or ‘90.)

I have a coworker who is black and deaf, but he does not identify as Black.  He identifies as Deaf.  He grew up in Berkeley which of course is multi-ethnic and went to the California School for the Deaf in Berkeley (and graduated from it four years after it moved to Fremont in 1980.)  Growing up, he was always around other Deaf, using American Sign language almost exclusively (meaning little or no use of speech or lipreading), and racial identity was only a very minor part of it.  He says, “I don’t know how to be Black.”

All Deaf and hard-of-hearing live within the Hearing world whether they like it or not, and it’s a constant struggle in so many ways.  Where we have struggles with racism, so we have what is being called Audism in the struggles that Deaf persons face in the world.  Audism is the belief that hearing loss is an unmitigated curse that must be eradicated at all costs, with no acknowledgment of the contributions of American Sign Language and Deaf Culture.  Or the acknowledgement is there but with a patronizing attitude.

Tom Holcomb confronts this in his very fine book (I attended one of his book tour events, too, he’s a fabulous speaker) called Introduction to American Deaf Culture.  You can peek in both of these books on Amazon.

Your essay focuses on the positive aspect that is Choice, but I felt something should be said about the factors in our lives that influence, redirect, even oppress our choices.

Hope this helps, dear cousin!

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