Monday, October 02, 2006

351: 3 skipped blogs; protest

I have tough feelings about the protest going on at Gallaudet. The protest itself is GREAT. I think there should be more, considering the attitude of the administration towards freedom of speech. I have seen over the last few months a wealth of stories, news, and information which tell me that the Fernandes administration is not going to be good for the University. I am not a student of Gallaudet or an alumni, although I went to MSSD for four years (yay class of 97) I decided not to go to Gallaudet for financial reasons (I got full scholarships elsewhere, Gallaudet didn't offer one. Sucks to be me.(/irony)) But I still respect Gallaudet as a center of learning, as an academic who one day will probably be teaching again. So I have some problems already with reports of department closing, the failure of the University to pass the PART report, comments by teachers about oppression and suppression, and most recently the decision of the University to issue new guidelines/restrictions around the freedom of speech. How many other potential students are avoiding the University because they see the potential of oppression?

Right now students are protesting these and many other issues on the front lawn, joined by faculty and alumni. A huge cross-section of the Deaf community is present. Fernandes' commented that "They think I'm not Deaf enough," referring to protestors. This community, which for very understandable reasons is highly touchy about identity, moreso internally, did indeed jump at the remark. Although Fernandes claimed she wanted to unite the Deaf community, she intended this remark to divide, blaming as she did one segment of the community for her problems. Indeed lines of communication, philosophy, and thought have risen and joined together, on the internet and beyond - AGAINST her leadership. Deaf people of Deaf parents, to hard-of-hearing people, to hearing people, to Deaf who do not yet know how to sign, have come together on the internet to demonstrate their concern. People of quiet, academic status in the Deaf community have written that they will cease donations to the University.

Now I want to talk about Audism. In a normal world, this last would be a big thing. When famous Black people stop donating to, e.g., Howard University, there's a big problem. When Women stop donating to Women's Universities, e.g. Bryn Mawr, there's a big problem. Now Deaf people have stopped donating to the one and only Deaf University in America. Indeed, in the world. Surely cameras must be converging.

But two days into this protest, the facts of the situation seem to still not have reached the media. How much have you seen on the news about this? Please, readers, contact the media and ask for attention on this situation. It's not just the protestors who have to do their part, but all people who support FREEDOM OF SPEECH at Gallaudet University, and not silly games with Earth Juice.

I wrote three posts I haven't blogged: one really pissed off that the protest is not making a bigger issue out of the loss of freedom of speech, one trying to figure out the threads of Deafhood and Audism in this protest. For people to speak out against Audism, there first needs to be freedom to speak. In our case, perhaps we should say freedom to communicate. Once that was taken away, or they attempted to take it away, I became highly alarmed. More so when I did not see a comparable response, or a pro-active movement. There are better ways to handle disagreement than oppression.

I wrote in my first "skipped" post that wilful ignorance is also audism. When people don't understand Deaf people, that's fine. When they don't do the work to cover the issues, that's audism, just like the news is in a sense racist. We cannot be angry at them. We have to draw their attention to these issues.

A big tool of Audism is the barrier between the so-called "deaf" and "hearing" worlds. In reality there is only one world - this world. Our world. By conceptually splitting people into Deaf and Hearing worlds, by talking about this to us our whole life, they give us a psychological barrier to movement between the two. Then the audist places himself at the point where the two communities divide. Imagine their tremendous power! They exploit the identity of difference, the fear and anger and emotion bottled up within that identity, and let it loose so they can control the people who bear these enormous emotions. The fear Deaf people have of hearing people - the fears Hearing people have of any difference, and the willingness with which any human being grasps for easy explanations and "fixes," medical, social, and psychological - And yes, these people can be Deaf or hearing.

Divide and conquer. Well, to defeat Audism, we must communicate with the world. Blogs are powerful precisely because there is no intermediary. There is no person to stand between the Deaf person and the world. The Deaf person can speak or sign directly to the world in a way people can understand. Thousands can access Ricky Taylor's words, and mine, and those of Jared Evans and Erfo and Adam Stone. For the first time in the history of the world our words, our thoughts, and our feelings have penetrated the logosphere of humanity. Our ideas are open to them: and vice versa. Youtube, funny as the name is, might be the first place to record the videos of Deaf people in a public place - accessible to millions - a library of sign languages to stun the world -

Let's not waste it. This is the answer to wilful ignorance. Instead of shutting out Deaf people from communication - read my last post about audism - Fernandes should be encouraging students to learn how to articulate their thoughts.

Of course if she could do that, there would not be a protest.

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