At the Center of White Privilege: Altering Deaf People of Color’s Public Spaces

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I am 42 years old male, my government skin is white, and a direct line with indigenous people in my family, I will copy and paste this powerful statement that today people still thinks Indigenous people are “people of color”:

A common phrase used to describe minority or underrepresented populations is “people of color.” American Indians are not, to quote Elizabeth Cook Lynn, a member of the Crow Creek Sioux tribe and founding editor of Wicazo Sa (a leading journal in American Indian Studies), “people of color”. Cook-Lynn writes:

Native populations in America are not “ethnic” populations; they are not “minority” populations, neither immigrant nor tourist, nor “people of color.” They are the indigenous peoples of this continent. They are landlords, with very special political and cultural status in the realm of American identity and citizenship. Since 1924, they have possessed dual citizenship, tribal and U.S.; and are the only population that has not been required to deny their previous national citizenship in order to possess U.S. citizenship. They are known and documented as citizens by their tribal nations. (1) 

References: https://americanindiansinchildrensliterature.blogspot.com/p/we-are-not-people-of-color.html

After watching a Deaf white woman with privileges video to belittle Deaf people of color conference couple of days ago, I do not know what to say, more like tying knots in my stomach. This post might be bit long to read—and try my best to unpack my white privileges. When I was a college student at a local community college, I signed up for African American History as part of my degree requirement before transferring to a university. My majors were: English, Liberal Studies, and Sociology.

That day in 2005 when I entered into the classroom to learn and appreciate African American history, I reached a very low moment in my academic experience when the teacher turned out to be a white male and had no experience in teaching this subject. It was a very last minute notice by the History department and I was offended. That was where I decided to withdraw that course on the same day. I felt good about it—that was part of unpacking my white privileges.

Later I became a university student—I signed up for American Indian Literature that was taught by Indigenous professor. I signed up for Jewish Literature that was also taught by Jewish professor. Then I signed up for Advanced Topics in American Literature: The Harlem Renaissance taught by Black professor. If Deaf Studies is taught or run the department by a hearing person, what do you call it? Is that a cultural appropriation? What about disempowerment? Dirty politics will always get in the way.

The whole point is that it is appreciated by what it is called cultural appreciation to learn about another culture with respect and courtesy by their own experience through the trials of oppression. In 2010, I attended National Deaf People of Color Conference: Hands Joined, Signs United, Colors Flying held in Portland, Oregon, it has popped my eyes even more coming from Deaf POC. They were the teachers of stories. I thank them for their experiences.

….What societies really, ideally, want is a citizenry which will simply obey the rules of society. If a society succeed in this, that society is about to perish.” [A Talk to Teachers]

What this means is, if we project that someone fail, they indeed might. But if we encourage and educate them, especially to take the occasional chance and challenge existing knowledge, we could truly advance as a society.

It is about education of People of Color. What I learned all these years not just the courses I took, but all the books I’ve read is that people of color has been stigmatized and never allow a Deaf white people with privileges to challenge Deaf people of color conference’s goals and missions on the basis of gender and race. Did it create an environment of paranoia? They already suffered as a result of extreme prejudice and stereotype.

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This pertains to social problems because there is definitely a large gulf of misunderstanding between POC and whites that seems to pervade society to this day, and that is tragic if we are to share the earth’s resources and live and work together as a human race. When no one asks honest racial questions about it, generations of ignorance and hatred fill the spaces between different races. When we all make an extra effort to understand each other’s experience or at least learn to it, that is progress in filling these racial gaps between people.

If I may make friendly suggestions to read three those books just to start and understand:

Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

W.E.B. Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folk

John Howard Griffin’s Black Like Me

And two movies to watch: Dear White People: A Satire about Being a Black Face in a White Place and 13th: From Slave to Criminal With One Amendment.

Yes, I have more books to share, but I feel this is good enough for now. It is only beginning—time to unpack white privileges right there. Remember, Hands Joined, Signs United, Colors Flying……Deaf People of Color comes FIRST—and try not to break up the hands, signs, and colors into white privileges. Make a good example.

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-JT

Copyright @ 2017 Jason Tozier

This text may be freely copied in its entirely only, including this copyright message.

 

 

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Fools Crow: Roots and Branches of Native American Literature

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Today is James Welch’s birthday—a famous Native American writer whom he passed away in 2003. When I looked up Google, there was a Doodle of James Welch honoring his contributions. I did not realize today was his birthday—so, I am writing a post to honor him. When I signed up for American Indian Literature course as a student, I really enjoyed his book, Fools Crow, it really hit me hard a lot what Native American literature was about. What impressed me the most is that he was a founding author of the Native American Renaissance—I remember my professor was talking a lot about Mr. Welch. He had asked all of us to read his books as required and write no more than 15 pages essay.

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I was really intrigued how Welch, in his book, Fools Crow, was able to show the tension in traditional values of the Blackfeet Indians during time of cultural and historical change. In the beginning of the book, younger Pikuni males (includling White Man’s Dog, who later becomes Fools Crow) are planning to embark upon a horse raid. Gaining horses for the tribe is viewed favorably and earns the Pikuni respect and a level of responsibility within their group. However, the younger Pikuni in the novel seem to be more focused on the personal glory attained in the plundering of horses from the Crow Indians.

I loved how Welch illustrates the life of the Pukini through storytelling. In this sense, he is preserving written tradition as important to Native American culture and a theme in Native American writing. For instance, rather than just describe the Sun Dance ritual, he describes Fools Crow’s experience of transcendence as he dances:

Fools Crow listened to the faraway rumble of Thunder Chief and felt his step becomes lighter. He felt in his heart, in the rhythm of the drum, a peculiar kind of happiness—a happiness that sleeps with sadness. And the feeling made his head light and he was removed from the others, dancing alone, singing a song that had to do with his life in this world, and in that other world he visited from his vision…. [Fools Crow, page 390]

My best time in that course I took, the book I was also required to read, The Jailing of Cecelia Capture written by Janet Campbell Hale, I decided to write both books in my final essay, Cecilia Capture and the Welch’s Narrator: An Examination of Two Cultures in a Search for Identity. if it was not for James Welch, it would not have published. Thank you, Mr. James Welch for the characters of Native Americans come to terms with its challenges, and continuing survival, with humor, and perhaps a sad recognition that they must continuously face and sometimes capitalize on derogatory stereotypes to ensure their survival.

Be sure to celebrate Native American Heritage Month!

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The Pin I Am Proudly to Hold!

-JT

Copyright © 2016 Jason Tozier

This text may be freely copied in its entirely only, including this copyright message.