Recently, President Bobbi Cordano sent out a letter with 2016 agenda for Gallaudet University. The most important keys are the last three statements:
“Racism, discrimination based on different identities, and other forms of systemic oppression, invest in and strengthen learning and discovery through academic programs, research, and community engagement efforts and celebrate the success of our students, staff, faculty, and alumni.”
Long before becoming president for Gallaudet, Bobbi was a former lawyer whom made a huge difference in Minnesota’s court system to make sure that a policy to provide ASL interpreters for Deaf people in courts is a huge key—but the problem is that there are many bad interpreters who does not even sign fluently or not at all and often ends up putting Deaf people in jail because of their gross negligence. It happens every day in American courts today and tomorrow.
There is plenty of Racism happening in courts where Black Deaf defendants could not defend themselves—on the lack of ASL interpreters. For example, Erica West Oyedele gave a presentation called “Missing Narratives in Interpreting and Interpreter Education” at Registry Interpreters of the Deaf (RID) Conference 2015 in New Orleans discussing lack of diversity within the predominantly White in RID—88% of RID interpreters are white and only 12% of Black or People of Color interpreters.
That raised a huge red flag. When Black Deaf defendants in court use their ASL, would White interpreters understand their language? No, I do not think so. Does White interpreters completely understands Black culture? No, I do not think so. Often Black Deaf would end up in jail by not receiving full accessibility to their language. So are Deaf White defendants, too. They often do not understand due process and end up thrown away without listening to their stories.
Inclusiveness is more complex and challenging but that is Gallaudet University we are talking about. We used to think of inclusiveness in terms of more than six principal groups——Deaf, Hard-of-Hearing, CI users, Oralists, ASL users, Black Deaf, Deaf with another Disability, etc.; however there are over 1000 independent thinking students on campus who happen to be Deaf. We have to think about inclusiveness in a totally different way; a more complex approach but I think ultimately far more rewarding. Let’s not just throw out the concept of inclusiveness; let’s question it and more to a more sophisticated and develop approach.
What about Deaf returning citizens? A Returning Citizen is when they re-enter into the society with a second chance whether they are wrongfully convicted or not. At Gallaudet, Deaf Culture is as much a part of the inclusive landscape as anything else and it is ridiculous to try to ignore our language. Deaf Returning citizens cannot be ignored. They have been severely oppressed by Gallaudet University based on discrimination based on different identities, and other forms of systemic oppression.
How come Gallaudet University refuses to invest and strengthen learning for Deaf returned citizens and not to celebrate their success? They view Deaf returning citizens as menace to the society. They practice stereotypes and prejudices without question.
Let’s take a look at Institutionalized Oppression Definitions from Wiki.
“Institutions are fairly stable social arrangements and practices through which collective actions are taken. Examples of institutions in America include the legal, educational, health care, social service, government, media and criminal justice systems.”
The key word: Educational.
“Institutional Oppression occurs when established laws, customs, and practices systemically reflect and produce inequities based on one’s membership in targeted social identity groups. If oppressive consequences accrue to institutional laws, customs, or practices, the institution is oppressive whether or not the individuals maintaining those practices have oppressive intentions. ”
The key word: Oppressive intentions.
Gallaudet University uses overt forms of oppression may be secret, hidden, and not openly practiced targeting Deaf returning citizens. How do we combat it without a notion of what inclusiveness is? Deaf returning citizens live our language, ASL. We can call it Deaf Culture but basically inclusiveness is talking about opportunity for oppression of ASL—the inability to include our language and culture with some kind of meaning. There are not enough academic line that is going to take us through to anything that we feel is worth accomplishing in our own language. That is an oppressive intention.
Inclusiveness is a welcome mat: Everybody is included; of course, it helps a lot if they were white, and hearing. Now I seem to be talking about white and hearing people’s power but that is what we are actually talking about. The fundamental question for inclusiveness is about dividing Deaf Returning citizens.
Inclusiveness is not a failed experiment. It is silly. However, we have to look at it as a reality to be dealt with in terms of white people’s power, which I realize, is a real fallacy, and then there is no real mutual respect. No one at Gallaudet University shall take Deaf returning citizens’ right to higher education away. Labeling is not cool.
Copyright © 2016 Jason Tozier
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