February 2007

(7:56) Why did i choose to label myself with this obsolete, presumedly negative, term “Deaf mute” in the banner introducing this v/blogsite? This vlog explains several reasons, but briefly in English:
Number one: a literal translation of the common sign for DEAF, the index finger covering the ear, then covering the mouth, is DEAF-MUTE…yes, that’s the root meaning, so literally many of us have been saying we are “Deaf mutes” proudly for a long time, smile.

Number two: For an oppressed group, it can be empowering to reclaim for themselves negative terms about that group. Queer and Dyke are degrading terms that have been reclaimed in empowering ways.

I have recently seen some other Deaf folks starting to reclaim the term “Deaf mute”…BUT only us can use that for ourselves. No no to the general public or media or professionals who continue not to understand us or look down on us…you do not yet know how to use “Deaf mute” properly.
So…watch with an open mind…and revisit our language (thus our way of thinking).

(Warning: this video clip is 8 mins long…tried to pare it down more…so I apologize for the length)

(aha! an English blog?! well, not exactly a blog posting, but a reprint of an article in the California Association of the Deaf newsletter. Nancy, the current Vice President of CAD, and I wrote that last year. I did develop a script draft to video this “article” performed in ASL, but never got a chance to film it. Maybe someday I will, or maybe one of you want to try? so here goes…Enjoy. I am coming out with another vlog soon about the term “Deaf mute”. Bear with me.)
Deafhood: Who is it for? What does CAD have to do with it?
by Ella Mae Lentz and Nancy Mitchell-Carroll
(written January 2006)

You have probably seen other people talking about a new word “Deafhood” lately. If you were me, I’d probably start wondering why that new word. Throughout 2004 – 2005 Deafhood has been popping up in several places in California such as the JASK lecture series at CSUN, the DCARA Board Lecture Series and the CAD and Deaf Seniors of America conferences in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Why another word for Deaf people? What’s wrong with the terms such as “deafness” , or “deaf and hard of hearing”? Deafhood is a term created by Dr. Paddy Ladd, a Deaf scholar in the Deaf Studies Department at the University of Bristol in England. Deafhood is found in Ladd’s book “Understanding Deaf Culture: In Search of Deafhood” (2003).

Deafhood is described as a journey that each Deaf person undertakes to discover their true identity and purpose here on the Earth as a Deaf person among other people. This journey is for anybody who is what George Veditz calls “first and foremost, people of the eye”. These people are visually oriented in dealing with the environment. They feel most at ease using a signed language rather than a spoken language. If you fit that description, you have begun the search for Deafhood. The degree of your hearing or speaking ability does not matter. Each person’s search for Deafhood occurs on all levels: physical, linguistic, mental and spiritual. And through that, it links each person to the amazing collective experience called the Deaf community and culture.

However, the search is not without obstacles. Those obstacles are Oralism and Audism that peaked in the early 1900’s with eugenicists such as Alexander Graham Bell, and weakened when Sign Language made a comeback in the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s. Eugenics is the science of controlling the population by deleting certain characteristics that are considered negative through selective breeding, sterilization, and at its worse, genocide. Oralism and Audism have come back more ferocious and dangerous in the 2000’s with rampant mainstreaming, cochlear implants, and genetic engineering. Boudreault (2005 CAD Conference) categorizes those as “neo-eugenics” because when it comes to Deaf people, their ultimate goal is to eradicate the “deficit”, that “horrible isolating disability,” through technology and education. Oralism is the educational philosophy and practice that focuses on developing speech (and listening) skills and looks down on and accuses Sign Language of interfering with Deaf people’s focus on that training. Audism, a word that was first published in 1975 by Dr. Tom Humphries (a Deaf scholar currently working at University of California in San Diego), describes the behavior and/or attitude of an individual, professional, or institution that believes that being Hearing is superior to being Deaf.

At the 2005 CAD conference, members voted to replace the term “deaf and hard of hearing” with “Deafhood” or “Deaf” in the CAD ByLaws and other publications. The main reason that term seems to split the Deaf community as we try to label us one way or other. It has fostered unhealthy competition based on the differences. A result has been that we accuse one other of rejecting the other. This was the true success of Oralism that Deaf people are divided from other Deaf people as they are “brainwashed” in believing one with better hearing or speech is superior. This caused resentments to arise. The true success of Deafhood is when Deaf people feel “at home” with being Deaf and finds a commonality with other Deaf people in their use of Sign Language and their visual orientation. When we are secure with our own natural language and community, we can be healthier, more creative and more embracing of the diversity surrounding us.

As the new CAD board moves into its two-year term, we desire to unify those of us who seek our Deafhood into a political bloc to fight neo-eugenics, the oppression of oralism and the arrogance of audism. We begin by celebrating the many gifts springing out of our community, history and language. We vow not to fight against other Deaf people, but to support each other in our journeys towards Deafhood, and to challenge the influences of Oralism and Audism in our lives. We will fight against the systemic audism prevalent among our schools, jobs, and families. We will also fight against financial interests and remove the masks of benevolence of the Hearing companies or professionals that “think they know all about … the Deaf, but know nothing about their thoughts and souls, their feelings, desires, and needs.”

We acknowledge there are people who do not see the need to search for their Deafhood. Some of those people are ones who discovered they are Deaf in their later years, and feel they have no use for Sign Language or a Deaf identity. We understand that their primary language is spoken and their culture is Hearing and naturally they may desire to restore their old identity and abilities. We know there are other organizations catering to those people and we do wish them the most happiness possible. However, we declare that those people are welcome to initiate their journeys into Deafhood. To begin the journey, we encourage those people learn and use our vibrant and exciting Sign Language, and open themselves up to the challenges and possible new joys and friends among other Deaf people. We will challenge and encourage them, but we will never manipulate nor control their bodies, their minds, their souls as the Audists and Oralists have done to Deaf people for years.

Your thoughts and comments are welcome. This discourse is essential for Deaf people to participate in as we form the collaboration to protect our dignity as people, to protect our language and the right to have and use it, and to share our Deafhood with the future generations.

My very first vlog on this site. Its a reaction to what I learned about a vlogger’s dilemma about captioning her vlog. Thankfully, that vlogger decided to continue vlogging rather than giving up. Also, contrary to what I said on the video, her struggle was installing the captions, not translating her ASL into English, as I learned that someone else did the English translation. I also shared two other painful situations in regard to Deaf people and ASL.
If the quality of the video isn’t good…it’s not the camera I used, but the “sharing” choices I made from my Macintosh, through iMovie. Eventually, I ll figure a better way to post a good quality vlog.

Ah. After many days of slowly preparing for this part of my lifelong Deafhood journey…the vlogsphere…and after many technical mishaps…and with Joey Baer’s patience and kind prodding and wonderful help….I am typing my very first posting in my very own vlogsite…There is much more to learn ahead of me…and I am determined to learn the important things bit by bit…and hopefully reach the point where I will enjoy some “extras” and play around with different features.
I am determined to do as many vlogs as possible, but boy! it’s been more complicated than I had anticipated. Joey says that with practice, things will become easier and that I will use up less time preparing for one.
I have one video clip ready. I intend to show it in my next posting. I look forward to this experience and sharing my “discoveries” with you along my journey.
So I say to myself “Bon Voyage!” and to you all, “Welcome aboard!”

yup…passed test! yippee..
hmm…that reminds me of the Newborn Hearing Screening (is that the correct name?) I understand that there are two “results”: pass or refer. If that is so, I would become confused. “Pass” means healthy, does it? I have a Deaf son and he has a Deaf son. They passed the tests in my opinion. They are like me and I am fine and healthy so they passed the first part of a Deaf identity test. But alas, the medical view’s roots are so deeply entrenched so they would probably say I am crazy. To them, “pass” means the baby is not Deaf, huh? Pass what? and if they claim the baby didn’t pass, they refer them to what? “newborn eyesight screening?” “newborn language acquisition screening?” No, they refer the baby to an audiologist and the baby goes through several more tests, filling up the medical folks’ pockets with dollars, lots of them.
I hope to explore this more later…I turn off my flashlight till the next time.