There are now reported 21 hate groups in District of Columbia released by Southern Poverty Law Center’s HATEWATCH. The only missing group is Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. How come SPLC did not list AGBell in this group? Well, there are few reasons that I will do my best to write and explain why AGBell should be classified as a hate group. Perhaps SPLC would learn from this for a start and go from there.
First of all, it is a sound-oriented world and SPLC does not really understand what Deaf people had suffered in their lifetime experiencing hate. Bell’s action equaled “Audism” of denying the linguistic minority such as Deaf signers such privileges and societal rights to the use of “natural language” Audism should really a logical term to describe AGBell’s eugenics movement for imposing linguistic and cultural superiority and eradication upon Deaf American signers of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.
More appropriate terms are linguistic imperialism or attempt to “linguicide” the sociocultural minority, ex. Deaf signers of the post-Milan Conference period from conveying and expressing their own thoughts in practical and efficient language usage. “Linguicism” could be also an acceptable term to describe AGBell’s misguided ideology of assimilating or centralizing the sociolinguistic minority into the society at large on so-called equal basis.
Deaf Americans and other Deaf people everywhere, could enact the strategic multilingualism policies to ensure the protection and preservation of our beloved and precious language (ASL, LSF, BSL, and many others) from possibility of linguistic extinction/loss and sociocultural genocide or undermine the existence of minority language usage. Deaf people everywhere ought to call for the non-intervention policy to make our natural language of the Deaf to the protected status to the listing of endangered language usage in the United States and other countries.
Beginning with the work of AGBell in the late 19th century, Deaf people have been frequent and prominent targets of the eugenics movement. It is not widely known by the general public that, in addition to his work as an inventor, Bell was also a leading figure in the education of the Deaf in the late 19th and 20th centuries. In order to put this issue into context, it is important to consider AGBell and the educational and social programs he promoted.
As it was indicated, the primary characteristic identifying a member of the Deaf community, as opposed to a hearing-impaired person, is the use of ASL. It is a matter of great importance to members of the Deaf community that AGBell was a leader of the movement to “all-oral” education of the Deaf, in which ASL was banned from the educational process and discouraged in ordinary social intercourse.
AGBell and other oralists seem to have been motivated by two major beliefs. First was a belief in the “progressive” idea that American should have a single “official” language, spoken English, and that everyone should acquire in the same way. Signing was thought to result in the failure to have an adequate command of English, which would condemn the Deaf person to a life of poverty and impaired intellect. The use of ASL in the educational process was felt to impede the development not only of speaking and lip-reading but also reading and writing.
The second motivation for the oralists was eugenic in nature and had to do with the supposed genetic bases of the state of being Deaf. The reasoning went like this: AGBell, in an influential monograph titled Memoir Upon the Formation of a Deaf Variety of the Human Race, asserted that sign language and those residential schools where it was used led to the formation of a separate Deaf community.
He noted, further, that the state of being Deaf is primarily heredity and that if Deaf people congregate and intermarry, the state of being Deaf, seen as a severe disability, will increase in the general population. Both of these lines of reasoning are know known to the without foundation-sign language has never been shown to interfere with the acquisition of spoken English skills, and, as is known to all of you, the state of being Deaf has many causes, generic and nongerietic.
In fact, most Deaf couple have hearing children (Lane, 1999) this can be attributed to a wider social awareness of other cultures in general in the United States. Even though awareness of Deaf culture has been perpetuated, the knowledge of the condition is not wholly agreed on by individuals in the hearing community, as evidenced by the results of the true or false portion of community how they view of Deaf people.
That is one of many reasons why SPLC did not really understand how much pain Deaf community has gone through the series of hatred. One day, AGBell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing will be recognized as a hate group. Time will come.
Copyright @ 2017 Jason Tozier
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Lane, Harlan (1992). The Mask of Benevolence: Disabling the Deaf Community. Dawn Sign Press. 1999.