[Image description: photo of Charlie Ainsworth with a kitten sitting on his shoulder. The kitten appears to have a damaged right eye.]
I’m sharing this facebook post by Charlie Ainsworth because it needs to be said again and again.
What is needed is “Succession Planning” ie A SIGN LANGUAGE AND WRITTEN agreement for how and WHEN a hearie will hand over their job to a Deafie. Deaf Boards should insist on it too.
Time for a bit more DEAF PRIDE (and I’m a hearie – LOL)!
Charlie Ainsworth updated his status.
I was notified that a couple of people were upset of my status regarding employed hearing people in deaf settings. I was quite sympathetic about the situation. However, after gathering my thoughts and a few hours, my perpetual anger insides me built up. This was to be my personal notes to prepare myself for any rebuttal. Just in case. But, I’ve determined that this should be out in the open, supposing there are many who received similar reaction as I did.
Let’s be clear about two things here:
1. My anger is not your regular hateful anger. It is a reserved and rightful anger that any member of a minority group holds against the world. My anger is what drives me as a deaf person and it helps me see this privileged thing clearly. It is an angry feeling that deserves to be shouted over the rooftops of the world. An anger that must be heard is different than the anger that is harmful.
2. The status I am referring to is: “#hearingprivilege is having a job that a deaf person should have regardless of how fluent you are in sign language. Some examples: head of a performing arts department at a deaf school, a human resources employee at a deaf school, a teacher who we await their much needed reitrement at a deaf school, an Artistic Director at a dying deaf theatre company, ASL instructors, director of accessibility that focuses on deaf accessibility, and so on.
My status is easily interpreted as a call to replace the employees (nation-wide) with deaf employees. While I strongly believe in a high percentage of deaf employees in a deaf setting, I am not trying to push the hearing employees away. The purpose of the hashtag is to simply point out that you, a hearing employee, are privileged. I have friends who are hearing and works with me and I would consider them as a major contributing figure to the deaf community. However, my status is to remind you that you are actively obstructing the pathway of a deaf person from succeeding in that particular field – regardless of your fluency in sign language or knowledge of the deaf culture.
The statement that often accompany this message is that they have their hand tied for the hearing applicant is much more qualified than any other deaf applicant of the position. If this is wholly true, then my rebuttal would be difficult but we must remember that this is a result of a systematic oppression that has gone on for so long now. We must take accountability and perhaps install a system where we can ensure that the position will eventually go to a deaf person.
Yes, the position fully belongs to a deaf person because:
1. Deaf people have to work so hard to achieve the position you are in. Deaf people struggle to find employment because of their disability. Deaf people struggle to achieve in an academic setting that would serve the degree and education required for such positions. Don’t forget that our choices in schools are rather limited and we constantly find our intelligence being questioned by those institutions. This causes the “but, the hearing applicant is more qualified” excuse to be almost true. Almost.
2. Deaf people have hard time finding a suitable and/or comfortable employment settings. Most of deaf people, myself including, would do anything to avoid working in a full hearing environment because of the painful experience we have. A hearing person often takes the wonderful opportunity to work at a place where the deaf person can communicate in their language intellectually and without interruption.
In addition, the “more-qualified” excuse only further our problems that have became our norm. We are restricting the possibilities and opportunities to create a brand new generation of empowered deaf people and yet more intelligent group. If a hearing person must be selected, then we must see that we have a system that would ensure a future deaf person would receive that job.
In order to understand what you’ve read is to understand what privilege is and that there is no such thing as reverse discrimination. I can sympathize with the difficulty of understanding what exactly a privilege is. I used to be the same – I remember boldly disagreeing with white privilege and sexism publicly. I was fortunate enough to be at Gallaudet University when this conversation took the campus by a storm.
No, you didn’t choose to be a hearing person just as I didn’t choose to be a white person. No, your functioning ears doesn’t automatically make you an audist just as being a man doesn’t automatically enable me to be a sexist. We, however, are greatly privileged in this shitty system. I, as a white straight man, have far more access to education, a livable wage, safety, and respect than women, the LGBTQIA community, and people of color. In response, I am constantly checking my privilege and I participate, passively, in the conversation. This way, I can empower those who are oppressed and help create a better future for them.
Being offended to my status is but a first step for you to check your privilege and to do as I do as a white man. If you must accuse my status as a some kind of reverse discrimination then you have a lot of things to learn. By using reverse discrimination, you are a great part of the problem. The so-called reverse discrimination is only to redress the majority into a false illusion of an oppressed group. You have the slightest idea of what we feel and experience every single day in our lives.
To avoid further interpretations of my status: the reaction I received was very small and rather thought-provoking. This is simply what every hearing person should know.
In conclusion, I ask the deaf people who may have received the similar reaction as I did – don’t be sympathetic. Don’t say they are right. Don’t submit to the “more-qualified” statement as I did today. It is our job to remain steadfast in our positions and maybe, just maybe we will one day see deaf people getting the job position they wholly deserve.
I cannot find a better reference than Captain America’s line in the Civil War comic series:
“When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree besides the river of truth, and tell the whole world— ‘No, you move.'”