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

lundi 31 juillet 2006

Elitism in Our World

A trend is becoming alarmingly evident as one scans the Deaf blogosphere and listservs such as GallyNet-L. This trend is the full-scale assault on deaf people who happen to have deaf parents. This is quite disturbing.

To understand why this bashing is occurring, it is necessary to examine the roots of the situation. To really delve into this would require doctorate-style research, but some of the factors are evident. We are a very fragmented community, and a complex one. We come from all sorts of educational backgrounds and communication methodologies - which we did not choose. Our parents and/or families made that choice for us. There are residential schools, mainstreamed programs, cued speech users, oral people, manually coded English (SEE and its ilk) users, and ASL users. Whatever method was chosen, it was chosen because our parents/families believed that was the best thing to do for us or they didn’t feel they had a choice. Hence, we grew up being told our placement and communication mode was the best. Many of us have internalized that to a degree. Granted, not all of us have or we changed our minds later after a great deal of reflection.

Another factor that comes into play here is the fact that we are an oppressed people. Every single one of us has experienced inaccessibility. Society has disabled and disempowered us to some degree. For example, many Internet video clips are not captioned, most notably the ones from large corporations, such as CNN. Not even the best speechreader can fully access these clips. This affects us on many levels. Many of us have grown up being told to be hearing is better, and we should strive to improve our speech and hearing skills. We have been pointed toward a peer and told, “See, Janie speaks well. She’ll fit better into the hearing world.” Or we’ve been in Janie’s position and praised, watching as our peers are subtly denigrated and diminished. In short, we have been held to a hearing standard most, if not all of our lives, and this has shaped our perception of ourselves to an extent. For further information, Genie Gertz’s doctoral dissertation talks about dysconscious audism (and a post below with that title explores dysconscious audism in some depth).

Cultural studies show that when a minority group is disenfranchised, it turns on itself, with its members bitterly fighting over who is better. This has led to the attitude of superiority some of us have. When one applies the points contained in the previous paragraph, one sees the following: Some oral people look down on deaf who sign, many don’t. Some hard of hearing people look down on deaf people, many don’t. Some mainstreamed deaf look down on residential school deaf, many don’t. Some deaf of deaf look down on deaf of hearing, many don’t. Some cuers look down on signing deaf, many don’t. Some CSUN/NTID grads look down on Gally grads, many don’t. Some Gally grads look down on non-Gally grads, many don’t. I have seen all of these occur, and I have also seen that to apply a generalization decrying any of these groups would be wrong, because most members of each group that I have met do not hold this superior attitude.

Because the bashing taking place is targeting one group, let’s look at this group. In the interest of full disclosure, I have no deaf people in my family at all. In America, because of oralism and the fact that 90% of us have hearing families, Deaf of Deaf have been the ones responsible for transmitting cultural information, stories, and ASL. This has given them a very important role, one which saved ASL, Deaf culture, and historical information. In my humble opinion, some of them have developed swelled heads as a result, but before some of you jump down my throat, many of them do not have swelled heads. Another factor is that they have been mocked for their sign language, been told they’re failures because they don’t speak well, and essentially been told that how their parents are raising them is wrong because it doesn’t meet the hearing standard. This type of treatment has the effect of enraging some people to the point where they reject others not like themselves because they assume that everyone else is the same. There are a few more reasons, but I won’t get into them at this point. This does not excuse acting like someone else is not worthy, however understandable it is.

As I wrote in my “Deaf Privilege?” post, this type of attitude and looking down on other deaf people is not exclusive to those born of deaf parents. For example, I’ve experienced rudeness because I graduated from Gallaudet. A few bloggers seem to take every opportunity they can to bash Gallaudet, which ticks me off. Gally is what you make of it, and I would not trade my years at Gally for anything. I could make a sweeping generalization saying RIT graduates hate Gallaudet and look down on people who graduated from Gallaudet because I’m seeing more and more of that. But I won’t. Most of the RIT grads I met do not have this attitude and it would be unfair to them to make such a blanket statement. All groups have members who are guilty of acting superior and devaluing others, and they all have members who are open and accepting of others, not just Deaf of Deaf.

We need to stop saying and doing such things. We need to stop accusing others of elitism, and we need to stop practicing elitism ourselves. We all need to take a hard, long look inside ourselves and reflect on whether or not we believe that others are inferior to us because of (fill in the blank). We need to reflect on whether or not we are truly open to others, regardless of their communication mode and background. Then we need to put this into action - be open to others and not put up barriers because they do not share the same background or communication mode we do - every single one of us. Let’s cease this deaf of deaf bashing and practice what we preach, all of us.


  • At 17:11, Anonymous Tayler said…

    Well put, Moi :)

  • At 20:57, Anonymous Anonyme said…

    Great post.


  • At 23:12, Anonymous Anonyme said…

    Dang womyn!!! I read your entire blog from Jan to now....

    I LOVE the way you think....dont stop! :-)


  • At 07:00, Anonymous Patricia Raswant said…


    For the first time in my 54 years, have I read such an insightful article like "Elitism in Our World." It's an incredible feeling of being acknowledged. I don't think there is even ONE entire scholar article focused on deaf children whose native language is ASL.

    Many thanks,
    Patricia Raswant

  • At 13:47, Anonymous DeafRush said…

    Wow! I agree completely! I myself graduated from RIT. I did not know we looked down on Gally. Sometimes, I envied Gally students.

  • At 13:53, Anonymous Anonyme said…

    Wow! Yes, it is very good post. I myself graduated from RIT. I did not know that we looked down on Gally students. I was always jealous of them.


  • At 19:45, Blogger moi said…

    Wow. I'm humbled. Thank you for writing and letting me know what you thought.

    Most RIT graduates don't look down on Gally, but there are some who do. I'm sorry if I made you think that all RIT people look down on Gally.


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