Saturday, April 26, 2008

Segregation and the deaf blogging community

We live in a society that deals with oppression and discrimination, despite our best attempts at educating and encouraging others to have an open mind and embrace others of different beliefs, different races, different abilities, and different cultures. With respect to the d/Deaf communities, discrimination still exists, alongside misunderstandings, misinformation, ignorance, and apathy.

What does one do when a community that is well known for complaining that they are discriminated against, practices that very form of discrimination within itself?

I'm talking about the online d/Deaf community, and how there seems to have been a line drawn in the cyber-sand lately and edicts stating that unless you are "deaf enough", you need not be acknowledged.

The crux of the biscuit, is that there are a great many bloggers/vloggers who use the blog aggregator known as DeafRead. I am listed there myself, along with a plethora of other bloggers who talk about everything from ASL/SEE/BSL (American Sign Language/Signed Exact English/British Sign Language) to Deaf Culture, to the deaf experience, to AVT (auditory-verbal training,) to closed captioning, to entertainment, to cochlear implants....

And it seems the latter, cochlear implants and those who have them, or have children with implants,or support those mentioned previously, have "invaded" (not my own words) DeafRead. There is a collection of bloggers who object to the blogs that discuss CI's, hearing a telephone, understanding conversations by hearing alone, mapping strategies, and educational choices/strategies for children with CI's, just to name a few. They feel they need protection from the big bad CI-using/supporting segment of the deaf community. Those that use CI's, who can hear, who don't communicate with pure ASL 100% of the time are not deaf enough to be included in the blog listings.

Just what *IS* "Deaf Enough" anyway? In many cases it depends on who you ask. There seem to be a great many "groupings" of deaf individuals within the entirety of the deaf community. There are those who are simply hard of hearing, those who are "little-d" deaf, who have hearing loss, but don't participate within the deaf community, those who are "big-D" Deaf who are actively involved in the Deaf Culture. There are those who come from generationally Deaf families, and those who aren't. There are latened-deafened children and adults. There are those who communicate via speaking/lipreading, those who sign, those who use cued speech, and those who use a combination of several of these methods.

The fact is - there are as many "flavors" of deafness as there are individuals who are deaf. Shouldn't we as a minority embrace all the wonderful differences that make each of us unique, and celebrate the different ways we can live our lives, instead of ranking people in terms of whether they are "worthy enough" to talk about their experiences? In response to the number of bloggers complaining about non-ASL/non Deaf Culture themed blogs on DeafRead, the owners offered a "dashboard" setup where members could select those blogs that they do not want to read so they don't show up on the listings of current blog postings. Thankfully they didn't make this blog-segregation a mandatory thing, but those who simply couldn't live with a blog being listed that contained a CI-theme could chose to delete them from their preferred blog list.

But STILL that wasn't good enough.

STILL there were calls to "ban the CI-blogs!!" and make DeafRead a 100% ASL, Deaf culture aggregator. Period.

So in response, the owners of DeafRead are setting up DeafSide - another aggregator where blogs will be submitted and picked by a group of three moderators (censorship anyone?) and must be ASL/Deaf Culture themed in order to be accepted.

I believe this is a slippery slope - what's next? An aggregator for those with CI's only? Maybe one just for adults and one just for children? An aggregator for those who use cued speech? One for those who are parents of CI-implanted children, and one for those who only lipread? Where does it stop? As one commenter named Nesmuth responding to the post about this upcoming change said, "This paves the way to the balkanization of the deaf community."

The Deaf community complains that too many people don't understand them, aren't willing to learn ASL, or learn about Deaf Culture....will with this move, cloistering themselves inside a "ASL/Deaf Culture members only" mentality, encourage those who *want* to learn to reach out to them, or will it be perceived as the equivalent of a "DO NOT TRESPASS" message?

I've personally experienced this kind of mentality from the Deaf community. When I was in my early 20's, and attending Rochester Institute of Technology/National Technical Institute for the Deaf, I went to RockFest at Gallaudet University. A group of friends and I were attending a private party held in an apartment when we were approached by a group of individuals who ordered us to leave. The reason? We were signing in SEE instead of ASL. We were instructed that unless we used ASL, we were not welcome. I was absolutely shocked by this, and have never forgotten that first taste of discrimination within the deaf community.

I feel like I'm suddenly back at that party, and the bitter taste that that experience left in my mouth has returned all over again.


Anonymous said... should fix the problem.


Sojourner said...

Theres plenty of groups within the African American community. It does not refer, "segregation," but "freedom to choose."
The implanted can create their own sites, why not?

Anonymous said...

Because Sojourner, even with a Cochlear Implant, we are stil deaf. So why should I be discriminated against? I sign, lipread, hear with cochlear implant (not true hearing), but because I've decided to make my life a little easier, I'm not welcome.

That's discrimination, segregation, and shows that the Deaf community is a closed one.

I liken it to apartheid.


Anonymous said...

It's amazing that you buy everything Nesmuth (real name Richard Roehm)says. He's well-
known as a pathetic liar and talks bombastically! Stay away from him!

Dyniece said...

Anonymous, I'm not "buying" anything anybody has said, but I believe his quote is appropriate when considering the splitting up or "balkanization" that is occurring within the deaf blogsphere. It doesn't mean anything beyond that. I thought it was a good quote and I wanted to use it, but like any proper blogger would do, I had to give credit where credit is due. I could have just used the quote without crediting him, but that would be DISCREDITING myself. Capiche?

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see a bit less of CI wars on deaf culture, and less from deaf culture at CI's too, all we need is one side or the other to agree to differ and just get on. I think both sides have a great deal to offer each other on the understanding of the deaf experience. So much hurt and aggrevation is being shown as each attacks the other, there are no 'winners' we are all losers...

Karen Mayes said...

Well, some thoughts go through my mind and I have commented a few on other blogs.

It seems that we feel more safe with division than unity. Also, I notice that when some people feel more "oppressed", they project their feelings, creating division. Whereas other people who don't feel oppressed, they are more open to the diversity of people, of all kinds.

Well, as we all know... divided, we fall. United, we stand. So it is not happening on DeafRead.

It is their call for division. What amuses me is that no one used custom button on DeafRead. *shrug*

Anonymous said...

Regardless if the person is Deaf, deaf, hearing impaired, HoH, CI, oral, SEE or whatever, it is the attitude of being superior that bothers others.

Deafread hears complains about bad attitude invaders and want to build another place for those that do not want "oppressors' attitude" that they have seen since 1880.

Dianrez said...

I understand you when you said you felt ousted at the party when some ASL purists asked you to leave because you used SEE.

That was absolutely horrifying and anti-Deaf. Anybody that uses any form of sign is behaving as a culturally Deaf person and definitely is not an oralist. I'm sorry it happened to you and can assure you it would not happen in my presence if I knew about it.

As for the segregation issue, as I understand it, DeafRead would continue as it is now with specific blogs pulled out (copied?) to DeafSide. That seems all right, because it concentrates a specific interest, ASL, and does not segregate at all.

We need to honor the cultural richness of the signing Deaf community just as Native Americans, Jews, Hindus and other ethnic groups do in their own websites. They don't dilute their richness by introducing the wider community, so why should Deaf people?

Anonymous said...

What next Karen ? publishing the 'top ten' ignored blogs ? There is an old saying if the wheel aint broke don't try fixing it. If it seems clear some form of moderation is inevitable, so be it. This can weed out the flaming and disrespect, without some moderation you can't.

Unfortunately moderation also suggests we cannot self-regulate, all these 'diversions' into seperate areas will not work, if the main page of continues anyway...

I wonder what the site statistics will look like, once the ASL user is self-confined to their own section ? CI ? Along with most I DON'T or rarely read off main page of ASL culture has few vblogs these days as it is.

The viewing audience will find very little to look at or read.

Jim said...

Very good post and this is one way of making people aware of what many people are facing. Its not just about cultural issue but rather the freedom to do what we want to do without any culture telling us what to do. Can you imagine some cultures' traditions that were allowed in their countries are forbidden in the United States. I don't have to list them because people can do their own research and find them.

In our society, we are afraid of changing and we rather be in ignorance than be aware of the truth. We just want our "culture" and "tradition".

People just need time to adjust.

Bloggers like you and I are just provoking many thoughts lately. This is not easy AT ALL.

Anonymous said...

dyniece - Thank cue!

Your comments are spot on!


Shel90 said...

I disagree with this post. Too often, many of us, are exposed to hearing ideologies, people who constantly disregard ASL, and try to push AVT on the Deaf community.

I feel this is a place where many people can go without the reminders of the pathological view of deafness. I see nothing wrong with that. It is just a safe place for many of us who have been victimized by the pathological view of deafness.

I am fine with Deafread being neutral and open to all kinds of issues relating to deaf issues. Just nice to have a section to go to where I know that I wont be bombared with AVT approaches, on how being able to hear is superior, and negative comments about ASL.

Just my two cents.

Sojourner said...

Robyn, It is just strange that the implanted keep talking about their experiences with CI and about CI, the blessings of hearing, etc etc. and we Deaf people dont even care about hearing. We really dont because if we could choose, we would want to be Deaf at birth.
If the implanted talk about ASL and being Deaf, etc... it'd be awesome because that is what its all about.... being Deaf....
Hope u get what I mean.
We dont care about implantation or hearing or whatever... hearing birds sing, music, ... nice... we are happy for u guys but we really are not interested.

If the implanted want to talk about sounds and their experiences, it would work the best if they can be in a group and holler all about it, cry out of joy, etc... it'd be a great blessing rather than forcing an input in the Deaf community cuz we really dont care.


Sojourner said...

Hey guys, I think I have good news here... Tayler is really sweet because he is going to keep DeafRead. :) DeafSide is just a new website for sign language. That is all. If the implanted use sign language and talk about ASL, it will be involved in DeafSide. So that is really good news for u guys :)
If you guys talk about hearing, you guys will be in DeafRead which is still a Deaf site.
I think that is big time fair, dont u think?
So the Segregation and the deaf blogging community idea is really far from this whole thing.

Smile, be happy.
Deaf people are way too nice, as always!


Abbie said...

I agree with you because it took me over six months to even have my blogs fed through Deafread. My feelings on Deafside is neutral right now. I feel that it was a shrewd entrepreneurial decision. Deafread needs visitors in order to survive and the popularity has fallen since the CI'ers have joined.

While I have a bitter taste and in fact I have had a bitter taste for quite some time due to completely outrageous comments but there are far and few between.

I am reserving an opinion pending the launch.

Kim said...

I just finished reading this. I missed in April. I've been so busy with work and school. It was kind of eery to read it now after all that has just recently happened. It's almost like you predicted it! I'm adding you to my GoogleReader as I don't want to lose you when I leave. This was a fabulous post. You're a great writer!

Ni Gallant said...

I think this is really true - here in Worcestershire a number of Deaf young people have cochlear implants. It sometimes happens that in some counties more kids are implanted than sign - its to do with the opinion of health professionals and if one family choose an implant then others may follow them.
When we go up to Birmingham most of the teens there sign, I personally sign all the time and am a hearing aid user but a number of the cochlear kids have never used sign.
they get left out of the conversations and excluded as they have better language skills, speech etc and less knowledge of sign.
i think this is really wrong! these teenagers are still Deaf! in fact, without an implant they would be "more deaf" than some of the rest of us! having an implant shouldnt block you from the deaf community. Teens with an implant still face the same difficulties other Deafies do with communication, education, subtitles etc.
I think it must be hard to have an implant - youre still deaf and rely on lip-reading alot to communicate and so dont really fit into a hearing world but then your own world (the Deaf world) discriminates against you often for a choice your parents made for you when you were a baby!
if when you hit teenage years you decide you dont want to wear your implant your still worse off because often you dont have the signing background..
anyway, sorry for the rant :) Ni.

STerras said...

You know what really annoys me the most? Deaf people tend to complain about the little things like CI, "not being deaf enough", or discrimination within deaf community. It seems we all are forgetting something that is more important and far more serious than what we are complaining right now. There are too many deaf people who suffer unemployment because of the discrimination we are dealing with by employers and companies. I wish there is a way we can do something to stop this nonsense. Unfortunately, it seems we are doing nothing about it. Sorry, but I just had to say it.