Saturday, May 06, 2006

parts of a letter

I began writing this in a comment on brought it here and added to it.

This protest is about what it means to be a Deaf person in the 21st Century. I King Jordan said that, and once again he is right. Deaf is not body or friends. Deaf is not ear or eye. Deaf is a culture and community; this is why it’s capitalized. When people act to improve the culture or community, they are approved of; or, when the involvement of that person benefits the culture or community, they are approved of. If their actions have somehow not benefited or instead detracted from the community, they will not be approved of. The feeling will not be clear. It will be a narrow “no” in the pit of Deaf stomachs. They will not themselves understand why. They will just know that there is a way forward and if this person is on that way, there will be no forward movement. And there must be forward movement, for, like sharks, cultures and communities need movement if they are to live.

It is not that Jane K. Fernandes can hear; she can’t. It is not that she can’t sign: she can. It seems the problem is that people are convinced she has her own interests at heart, not those of the University. Gallaudet is an institution, yes. Adam has pointed this out. It is not an institution that works quite like a corporation, because it is the face of Deaf people. Deafness has been called the invisible disability: well, Gallaudet is the place it can be seen, clearly, and this puts power in hands which move like mountains.

I think there is a vision that Gallaudet is a place to rehabilitate people to get ready for work, and there is another vision that Gallaudet is a center of culture, education, preparing the leadership of a people for a new age. These visions contrast and contradict each other. The students out there today have been under a regime which follows the former vision, which accepted it as normal. Yes, ASL is great, yes, Deaf culture: they give lots of great lip service to our ideals. I worry however that some people think of Gallaudet as just a big job center. This feeling has always been there; it was in some ways the original purpose of Gallaudet, to teach Deaf people so that they could be part of the world. I am sure there are people in Congress and the Senate who see Gallaudet and deaf people in this light. That's why we need strong leaders - capable Deaf people - capable of being capable while still being culturally Deaf.

Maybe this is why it's become a cliche that Gallaudet has a crummy education. The quality of what we learn isn't so important if the University is just a way to 'fix' broken Deaf people. Departments which further our future - the digital media and television department is one example - are closed in favor of certain others. The goal - the reason we're learning it - what? For some, it will be rehabilitation. But we have gone beyond seeing ourselves as people who need rehabilitation. We see ourselves as having value that needs to be cherished and encouraged. We need to see movement as we move to the future and further define our identity and, therefore, our value to the world. In the same way the acceptance of ASL as a language led to the understanding of signed poetry and other Deaf-centric forms of art, so will the understanding of humanity shared by Deaf Studies further our understanding of humanity.

We need that leader: the question to ask is, who is that leader?

The thing that pisses me off? I King Jordan stated that Gallaudet is a University and the presidency had nothing to do with the community. But he was the person who united the two when he was selected by BoT after the Deaf President Now protests. He won his position by uniting the two. Can't really go back to 1987.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say I enjoyed reading your blogs. You post a lot of deep and thoughtful opinions. Keep it up.