Random Thoughts and Musings by moi

Musings by a feisty, opinionated Deaf gal who wants nothing but the best for her community and her people

vendredi 24 février 2006

Dysconscious audism

My new favorite phrase - dysconscious audism. Dysconscious audism is basically defined as audism (a belief and attitude that to be deaf is to be inferior to hearing people) perpetrated by members of the Deaf community because they have internalized attitudes that the hearing way is superior due to the systemic and pervasive oppression all around us.

Last night Dr. Genie Gertz of CSUN gave a talk, based on her doctoral dissertation and her research. (UPDATE: she wrote an article on dysconscious audism, and it can be found in Open Your Eyes.) It was so incredibly powerful. It validated so many things I've experienced recently and so many things I've known for years but never articulated. It made me realize yet again that some of what I've had to put up with is because I'm ahead of my time. For example, when a movement was at its peak last month, a couple of people told me I probably supported it because I've been influenced by whom I hang out with. *doink* It's actually the other way 'round. It's because we have vision and foresight that we made this demand, not because we were influenced by one person or something equally silly. Part of the reason we hang out together is because we understand each other and are able to get much-needed support. I'm so glad many things are happening, because wonderfully progressive as this local community is, it remains in need of consciousness raising.

But I digress... The talk was amazing. The woman is incredibly articulate and drove her point home extremely well. She gave many, many examples of dysconscious audism from all walks of life and many common situations - some of which I recognized as examples of national Deaf leaders and state Deaf leaders. I think for many less-aware people, the examples made it more "real" and enabled people to be able to take a look at themselves. F'r instance, after the talk, my boss came to me and quoted Genie: " 'There isn't enough room in the curriculum for Deaf Studies - it's too packed.' I am going to have to reconsider that," with a rueful laugh. She has said that so many times and it clearly hit home for her. Another point Genie made was that identity is made up of four components: language, culture, community, and education (general lifelong learning and experiences as well as schooling). Audism influences all four of these because of the systems in place that pervade our society. The information was so powerful that it needs to be in book form so the ideas can be circulated more freely and that the term "dysconscious audism" can become part of our vernacular. Anyhoo... another key point she made via her examples was that so many times Deaf people say "don't make waves," "don't rock the boat," "don't leave hearing people out," "wow, you're rejecting hearing people," "we need balance," etc, etc, but this functions to the detriment of collectivism and making progress.

The main thrust of the entire presentation was that because we have internalized audism to varying degrees and we express it, we are a weaker community. Dysconscious audism divides us and makes it extraordinarily difficult for us to unify behind anything. She's hit the nail on the head. That's exactly what happened with a recent situation. Hearing people supported us. It was Deaf people who were divided. Some said, "You're rejecting hearing people and that's not right." Other gems I heard included "It shouldn't matter," "You're too extreme," and more. One deaf person even gave me the most disgusted look, complete with eye rolls and pointedly looking away when I brought it up. Name almost any Deaf-related issue, and you'll find that we are a very divided community, due to reasons like needing to learn about hearing norms, we need balance, we shouldn't discriminate, we shouldn't oppress hearing people, and we need to face reality. Why is it so hard to get us united behind the concept that we are whole, wonderful individuals exactly the way we are and we have every right to demand respect as individuals and as experts in what our kind needs? Dysconscious audism is why, and that's scary.

On a side note - after the talk, there was a group discussing many things. During this chat, MJ Bienvenu said, "I've been told recently that I've mellowed, but the answer is no, I haven't. I have not changed! I'm the same! It's just that people have caught up to me." *laugh* She has a point.


  • At 07:40, Blogger DEAF ADVOCATE said…

    Hey I like that term "dysconscious audism" I usually call them DOTs (Deaf Uncle Toms) I am from St. Louis and it is considered capital of audism.....4 oral school programs in town and they look down on ASL..as well as some so-called deaf leaders who keep confusing these issues...such as your statements "The information was so powerful that it needs to be in book form so the ideas can be circulated more freely and that the term "dysconscious audism" can become part of our vernacular. Anyhoo... another key point she made via her examples was that so many times Deaf people say "don't make waves," "don't rock the boat," "don't leave hearing people out," "wow, you're rejecting hearing people," "we need balance," etc, etc, but this functions to the detriment of collectivism and making progress."

    You hit the nail right on its head! I agree and it is time to "deprogram" them, but they are so stubborn and selfish.

    What more can I do? It has been 22 years of trying to right the wrongs.

    thank you!

  • At 13:28, Anonymous Anonyme said…


    How interesting to meet members of a new community making excellent use of the term that I created to describe what I defined as "dysconscious racism" in 1990. The notion of "dysconsciousness" has also been used in feminist scholarship and in the emergent discipline of "white studies". You can find the original article if you care to read it: J. King, Dysconscious racism: Ideology, identity, and the mis-education of teachers. Journal of Negro Education, 60 (2), 1990: 133-146.

    Dr. Joyce King
    Benjamin E Mays Chair for Urban Teaching, Learning & Leadership, GA State University

  • At 08:31, Blogger deafk said…


    I am trying to understand this, but still blurry... I am sorry. Could you please describe MORE basic term, eh? for me?? Thank you...


  • At 15:56, Blogger moi said…


    Dr. King, I'm so glad you found this entry and are seeing how other communities are building upon your writings. Thank you for providing us with terms and concepts that describe what we are experiencing.

    I'm willing to do that. :) Basically, dysconscious audism happens because we deaf people have always been oppressed. We start to believe that we are not good enough. We believe that hearing people are really better than we are. Then we start saying negative things about deaf people, like, "Hearing people have better English. Ask a hearing person to check." or "You need to follow hearing. Accept what hearing says." That's dysconscious audism.

    I hope this helps. :)

  • At 10:13, Anonymous Anonyme said…

    Re: Dr. Joyce King's comment

    Ohh. Did Dr. Gertz cite the source of her recycled concept of dysconscious audism? I hope she gave credit where it is due.

  • At 10:22, Anonymous Anonyme said…

    I am truly impressed that Dr. Joyce King has taken the opportunity to engage us in a dialogue on dysconciousness. I have had the opportunity of watching Dr. Gertz present on this topic which was also her dissertation topic. I believe she is right on the mark.
    Deaf Liberation will NOT be achieved until we begin to raise our own consciousness of our value, brilliance and human right to exist as we are alongside all varieties of the human race.
    However, it is incredibly rare to find deaf leadership that can function without a "hearing puppet master" pulling the strings.
    Whether these hearing puppet masters are well intentioned or not is besides the point. The fact they permeate all aspects of deaf life is cause for pause and some serious soul searching. Think about it, if we remain dysconcious or our own racism and audism, why shouldnt the puppet masters want to find easier ways to pull the strings? It must be a bit tiresome for them using outdated methods so finding technological solutions makes sense - hence cochlear implants and the coming stem cell revolution. Puppet masters rejoice, your victory is within sight. You see, its a battle we deaf people cannot win. I am not being deficit here but merely stating a fact. Racism is a reality within the deaf community and it is so deep that many deaf people of color actually believe that adopting white norms, behaviors and rules of social conduct are the only way to advance in society. Those of us who insist on the dynamism and greatness of the incredibly diverse black world are snickered on and folks point to our black on black violence (carefully ommitting white on white violence such as Columbine, Waco, etc.) poverty within the black community (carefully ommiting the systemmic use of archaic laws that were deliberately written for a very clear and specific purpose, to maintain privilege for a specific group).
    Now substitute some terms here and replace racism with audism and see what we come up with. Just think of this, human societies deliberately create social, economic, political and intellectual systems designed to accommodate those with auditory ability at the exclusion of those of us without. Dr. King and Dr. Gertz have actually exposed a truly evil system whereby people like me, who are both deaf and black, are victims of an evil that conspires to deprive us of our humanity. But then when we have leaders who are dysconcious, what are our children to hope for? Is there any hope? I wonder.

    Very Conscious Black Deaf Person


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