Advertisements

Tag Archives: Mainstreaming

Mainstream Surdophobia

51fjEXwruJL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Bullying is number one. In schools bullying against Deaf children in mainstreaming schools is number one. This notion is that media is making surdophobia more normative.

Alexander Graham Bell [AGBell] lobbied for measures to dehumanize Deaf people and created a space for language bigotry because Deaf people seek for constitutional rights—AGBell twisted “constitutional rights”—denying American Sign Language as a constitutional right. Oppression is the systematic repression of a human being.

There are countless examples of how severe oppression affect Deaf community each day. Deaf people are in minority group, when the minority stays in their place—everything is OK, but when the minority takes their stand—problem comes. For example, you are Deaf and that leads to justification for crime because the person is now dehumanized. How do Deaf people help Deaf people get out of world of oppression?

Instructors of the deaf, so far as possible, should be in full possession of all their faculties…The percentage of deaf teachers employed has steadily decreased, and must decrease still further to a very great extent on account of the increasing attention paid to articulation teaching…The employment of deaf teachers is absolutely detrimental to oral instruction……” -Alexander Graham Bell, 1881. Winefield, Never the Twain Shall Meet, p.45 (see bibliography #8)

AGBell was the bully culprit. He converted his prejudice into a hateful manner, Bell talked about Deaf people, overcompensating or making assumptions about them as a whole, which can be just as prejudiced as outright bigotry.

Bell’s mission was a personal one that borders on the political as well: the ideology how to oppress over Deaf community in America, and Bell’s anxious hopes for teaching people oppress towards Deaf people. The main point of oppression is working too hard to pretend to understand Deaf people is as bad as being ignorant of it in the first place.

Many people automatically assume certain things on a bigotry level, such as Deaf people that they are predominately “bad people”.

Older post: https://audismnegatsurdi.com/2015/07/16/the-ethical-of-forgotten-mainstream-deaf-students/

-JT

Copyright © 2017 Jason Tozier

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

Advertisements

The Ethical of Forgotten Mainstream Deaf Students

1901168_10152916188236120_7767135837384705535_n

Marvin Miller’s class project [Click me for bigger words to read]

Mainstreaming has often been labeled as the greatest cultural success in the eyes of school administration when they said that Deaf schools are a wasteland of academic fraud and face plants worthwhile only for those moments in life of great procrastination. The face plants are often the people who works in media and school administration that are too lazy to admit that the oppression inside mainstreaming schools around the country is the reason that mainstreaming students are struggling for the best academics available.

Added to the condemnation is the spirit uproar of Deafhood framework, which serves big purpose, but to open the door with the truth that the author Paddy Ladd writes in page 152,

It can be seen from the previous sections that the last 20 years have produced an enormous number of changes, for both better and worse, which have been enacted upon and in turn reacted to by what is a small Deaf community. These various wave have resulted in a tremendous increase in Deaf discourse and cultural ferment, with both positive and negative outcomes.”

What does it mean to me? The last 20 years has changed a lot—for example, in the special education report by the Department of Education and that is in America alone, 80% of Deaf students in mainstreaming struggle to meet with the state standards, for example, test scores in English, math, reading, science, history, and several subjects as hearing students excels. It shows that the society did not really pay full attention and they are responsible for the depression and the pursuit of happiness. The key word in the quote is enormous number of changes.

Is it hopeful or hopeless? Look a little deeper in Ladd’s book Understanding Deaf Culture: In Search of Deafhood, and one can find a glowing patchwork of literature masterpieces, available to any and all who wish to break free from severe academic oppression in mainstreaming by students themselves, if only for a moment, into 20th century discourses, for example, new Deaf discourses, 1975 to date, the Oralist response, 1980 to date. The following discourses, for whatever reason, appear full length and for all to see what the media did not reveal the TRUTH in the first place.

A quick disclaimer—the discourse is here one day but may be gone the next. As of this writing, there is available, but the future is uncertain. Now, in no particular order, there is an important discourse to focus on. Little more can be said about Deaf community fighting enough to keep Deaf schools open. This stuff is old enough now to be in the public domain, and there are days and days of severe academic oppression in mainstreaming schools for all to see. Within full-fledged mainstreaming comes into my life, the whole life, so it should be no surprise if some of it is hard to grasp. There is a good reason why I remain on the cultural compass for so long, however, and it is never been easier to explore my life and work.

However, it is very important to see primary source documentation with education in 2015 looks like. Let Mr. Marvin Miller be your guide with his latest project—a splendid work! The image above that will guide you to understand the adversity that Deaf students face today and tomorrow, even when the society disagree or when they are not able to support them as much as they would like because all of the things they are pulling this way. As shown in Marvin’s project, 75% of Deaf kids that were neglected category and none were in the popular category found in Gina Olivia’s book—is pretty much true to my experience in mainstreaming schools.

Along with Miller’s project, my concerns that mainstreaming students are having difficult time to be a human, and there is not enough encouragement despite their deep struggle. Now Deaf people are above and beyond the sun, in the brightness of the universe and the darkness of the cosmos waiting for the Big Bang. The collision of being Deaf so immense that they could never explain, so small that the Deaf people will never recover truly from it. We know that it is there; we know that Audism is coming back in the cycle over and over. Are Deaf people coming? Yes, they are coming!

Thank you, Marvin for your project that shows that Deaf students are the warriors of passionate protectors amongst the beasts the society created from dirt, water, and soul. Deaf people are the rib from that reason. Deaf people are the day, night, water, and air that the reason they were created before something created us. They are the flame and shine a light whose worth is only appreciated in the darkness. It is appropriate to stop Audism in mainstreaming schools! 268629_10150655450445472_21558520471_19159617_294318_n-JT

Copyright © Jason Tozier

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

Deaf Mainstream and Suicide

ImageAristotle known as the Audist Philosopher

Nothing haunts us like the things we don’t say”-Mitch Albom

I have some more to write about my childhood experiences, especially in mainstreaming settings, after I read about Fautso’s death, which I admit, is still haunting me to this date. I realized that I had experienced a plenty of subsequent educational hardships all those years and the likelihood of graduating from high school was difficult after receiving many threats, harassment, bullying, and faced adverse consequences including stigmatization and differential treatment. During my senior year in high school, a month before graduation, I wanted to drop out of high school like everybody in my family did until my father got a phone call from somebody at the school that I was about to drop out, but my father got off work early and drove 30 miles to show up at my high school and caught me in a hallway and begged that I will not give up my education. He said to me, “Son, do not follow my footsteps and you are better than that”. At first, I was disgusted with my father’s appeal because he did not understand what I was going through then I realized that my father was doing the right thing for me. “Be a leader’, he said.

I skipped classes so many times during second semester and partied much and that is where I was couple of credits short from graduating high school. That was where it did not stop me from achieving my goals to graduate from high school. I ended up being in the “fifth” (senior) and skyrocketed my grades by getting five A’s and one B’s during first semester then second semester, almost got perfect grades only because I did not do well in pottery class and ended up getting B for the class. My grandmother said if anyone got perfect grades would receive $50. I really wanted $50 then my grandmother saw what I was going through, she decided to give me $50 for my efforts! In my previous blog, “My Personal Struggles in Mainstreaming America” in which I mentioned the CODA interpreter who interpreted for me in fifth grade until she moved away. We reunited again in my “fifth” year senior. That made a huge difference. Yes, even I got suspended that time for five days after getting in fight with a bully student named Kevin. My brother was there and he was in awe how much I suffered social satire everyday in hallways. He would hear other students’ mocking at me while I walked by. They just did not know that I was his big brother. I had to set an example for my brother at some point. I could not let bullies and bigots fail me and made sure that my brother could not ignore my education’s fundamental premise.

Mainstreamed Deaf students have as much right to seek higher education as non-Deaf students do. There is no secret that mainstreaming system is very much one-sided and the system has alluded Deaf students’ dignity from becoming normal and full Deaf-minded students. Mainstreamed Deaf students should not get characterized by their neglect, I am sure that the stress is so great that affects families as well, too that they experience similar social stigma what they were going through with greater personal isolation.

Is Audism part of conservatism? Definitely yes, Audists know it because they oppose to the idea of radical changes. They play dumb, but they know it! There is so much ignorance in the mainstreaming settings that leaves Deaf people very much invisible what they had been profiled around. Why not Deaf students grow up with a strong mind and ASL? Mainstreaming settings are meant to keep Deaf students from looking at hearing students in their eyes. The problem is that it is not a Deaf cultural thing, but it is a hearing supremacy thing. The Audists are out in force today. Deaf people’s existence causes a cognitive dissonance in their eyes. Many Deaf schools are closed in North America and other parts of countries. The systematic denial of receiving resources for Deaf students in mainstreaming settings still exists.

Aristotle was the one who said Deaf people are incapable of their intelligence. Thanks to Thomas Aquinas, a philosopher and a priest in 12th century, found Aristotle’s work after buried deep somewhere since third B.C. because Aristotle had committed suicide, the Church did not recognize his work. Imagine if Aquinas did not find Aristotle’s work, would the world be different and treat Deaf people with respect and dignity? We need to stand up in the public and continue to reinforce the fact that mainstreaming settings is not the answer. Let’s make an example of the problem.

Denying Intellectual Audism is in a new vogue. How can Deaf people not deal with enormous sense of shame and stigma by being Deaf? They should not felt demoralized at all. Mainstreaming has become a collateral consequence to Deaf people’s lives. Audism makes sure that Deaf people are liable for their consequences for their actions no matter what happened to them in the classroom. Various factors have contributed to many more problems. Remember Paddy Ladd’s research in his book, 80% of Deaf children do not have formal education on the earth. Audists would say that Ladd’s published research findings are false and disagreeable. They need to think that “listening and speaking” is individualistic, like playing some musical instruments.

In the United States, we need to utilize the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to change discriminatory state laws that affect Deaf students in mainstreaming system. In U.K., 96% of Deaf children are mainstreamed and in Canada, high percentage as well, too. We will not become Aristotle’s children. I know that there is high percentage of Deaf children who committed suicide and yet it is invisible in the media world. We need to collect newspaper clippings even if they say “hearing impaired” instead of “Deaf” and other documented information to prove that suicide among Deaf young people exist. Educators of the Deaf today are completely trained under the powerful influence from 1880 Milan Resolution Conference to make sure mainstreamed Deaf children are overlooked and dismissed as nonexistent in the society.

Ladd’s quote, “…parade a single Deaf ‘success’ in order to exemplify the miracle made flesh, and to thus claim all Deaf children were capable of these achievements. That the examples in question were usually drawn from deafened or partially Deaf children was something that was hidden from view” and his other quote, “Isolated from contact with other Deaf people, the experience resulted in ‘academic success’ but was traumatic both socially and emotionally” both quotes were written in 1979.

-JT

Copyright © Jason Tozier

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

My Personal Struggles in Mainstreaming America

ImageNancy Rourke’s System Fails

After reading an article about Fausto Delgado, a Deaf mainstreamed kid who decided to take his life two weeks ago in California, and it hit me hard by bringing my memories back.

News flash: I never shared this with anyone but only two good friends know about it. When I was 14, I was so fed up with my life, I was a very unhappy individual, unable to express my own frustrations through sign language, and no one could really understood what I was going through. I grew up mainstreamed all my life and I could easily vouch that it was one of the most brutal experiences in my life.

One weekend in late April a long time ago, for example, I went inside the barn on my family’s property, I saw an opportunity by putting the rope on the beam around my neck, so I could commit suicide until my grandfather was walking up to the barn, I hid the rope right away and acted like nothing had happened. I could even remember my grandfather’s face, looking bit puzzled, and he asked me what I was doing there. Only that he did not know sign language. Home-signed “nothing” by shaking my head.

No one knew about this until now. That was in 1988, few weeks after Deaf President Now (DPN).

Why is it being labeled as the most misgiving in human life that being Deaf in mainstreaming is not normal? I had been subjected to limit ASL from being natural Deaf. My “sound-oriented” teachers, school administration, principals even most of my interpreters were deficit thinkers. I had one interpreter who was a Child of Deaf Adult (CODA) and she tried to help me so much she could then one day she moved away. I never knew what CODA meant until I was in my late 20’s. I can still remember my middle school principal, Mr. Hicks who was a mean-spirited bully, and he had one of the worst and poor flexibilities within Deaf Education that made my education to suffer. He allowed students to bully me as much as they could.

Mr. Hicks made sure that I was suffering from my own emotional insecurity and destroy my intellectual development within receiving fair education. From going through K-12, I was the target of bullies at the same time; I was suspended from school 18 times just for protecting myself. There were many stories to share.

Once, when I was in the third grade, I disobeyed an order from my interpreter “X” telling me to slow down because she did not like the fact that I was good in solving fractions so quickly in front of the other students making her look bad. But I was natural in mathematics then she actually slapped my face in the hallway and dragged my hand to go see my principal, Mrs. Gloria Pappas and I cried so hard asking, “WHY?! WHY?! WHY?!” and I ended up in detention for two days. My father never knew about this. When I was 17, I had a chance to visit Deaf school; I admit that I was shocked. I really wanted to go there, but I did not.

The mainstreaming system failed to release itself from the grasp of the bullying methods by permitting them to have as much influence in “power-struggling” Deaf students down in their faces. Once the bullying is granted to a fair and constant price more people will choose between bullying and intimidation. More Deaf students will have to suffer with their afflictions for lack of being to protect themselves, and lastly, more bullies will be able to find a way to belittle Deaf students that they are deemed to impossible to fight back. Mainstreaming schools for Deaf students will realize that the words of those bullies do apply to school administration and their families.

The Deaf body can be resilient but also frail and fallible and they are people, too. The mainstreaming is a dark pot into which activities that relates to many Deaf mainstreamed kids being bullied everyday. It is time to minimize aggression, bullying, threats, and distress. Why being hesitant by supporting bullying against Deaf kids that now are deeming to be ineffective?

It is evident that Deaf children in mainstreaming schools experience higher percentage of emotional abuses more than hearing peers. The safe haven in classrooms does not exist at all. The mainstreaming schools fails to make a cardinal decision by protecting Deaf students with public safety efforts and grant them freedom and protections. The problem is that the society is too ignorant. Will mainstreamed Deaf kids ever rehabilitate from emotional scars? Maybe. Maybe not.

One of my favorite authors, Barbara Perry wrote,

This historical example is a reminder that acts of discriminatory violence and intimidation—hate crimes—are not new phenomena in the United States. It is important to keep in mind that what we currently refer to as hate crime has a long historical lineage; the contemporary dynamics of hate-motivated violence have their origins in historical conditions. With respect to racial violence, at least, history does repeat itself, as similar patterns of motivation, sentiment, and victimization recur over time….”

It matches perfectly what mainstreamed Deaf kids experience discriminatory violence and intimidation—intellectual Audism. History does repeat itself…..

Remember that CODA interpreter I mentioned? Well, I bumped into her in Las Vegas in summer 2012 during World Deaf Expo, it was very nice to see her after 20 years and she said that I grew up so much and knowing I had very rough life and she said that she really wished she could have helped me out more to escape from dark rooms in mainstreaming schools. It was heartbreaking to see her say that. Maybe I could have better life. The society failed me. The mainstreaming system failed me. Even today they are still trying to make me a failure. The million-dollar question, what is the effect of dehumanizing Deaf students in mainstream classrooms?

Image

Third grade. Front row. Fourth person on the right with black watch (That is me) See first three boys in the very back on the left side. Bullies. In the second row, second person on the left, a boy who loved to taunt me. Years later we bumped into each other in high school at a wrestling tournament where we faced each other on the mat. Guess who won? By a majority score. Good times.

-JT

Copyright © 2013 Jason Tozier

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

Laugh and The World Laughs With You

Image                                                 Identity Gone by Nancy Rourke

Laugh, laugh, laugh! Come on, it is not that hard to do! What is wrong with you?

Well, when I was growing up seeing family members in the same room, laughing, and I often asked them, “what is so funny?” They would say, “I am too lazy to tell you,” “it is not important to know,”  “you do not understand,” “get lost,” “who are you?” Why is the laughter not very much a part of my life? I became dumbfounded on-spot that something was funny in another language: spoken English. Not just the family gatherings, but I would watch movies with closed captions, I still did not laugh. Growing up as a kid, I was completely clueless about American Sign Language (ASL).

Growing up in THE hearing world all my life, I was just a stranger, an interloper without guidance, a lack of ASL, and confused with no goal or direction in life. As a boy growing up in a small town, I drank into my character a dark with empty life that had not shared enough with an important human property, laughter. Without laughing, it gave me a handful of toxic legacies that flushed me inside out.

There were several times when my cousin Tony and I would be watching a movie with some of comedy together, he was laughing hard but he noticed that I did not laugh. He then asked me why I would not laugh. I never really understood any part of the laughter. I was just an angry kid, knowing that my family did not bother to communicate with me. Also, I was angry that I was being bullied and ostracized at my school. I often landed me in the principal’s office where I would get accused, blamed and suspended right away. Those hearing peers would mock and laugh at me. So I did not laugh.

After I saw stories in ASL via vlogs and Deaf scholars, I was shocked to discover that I was able to laugh! It had transformed me from a lonely and introvert childhood. I always had trouble with the hearing world, and with laughter, I went to being an outgoing, sociable jock, just a full of life.

I lived with the label in hearing world all my life until ASL came into my life that removed my depression right away. As my story goes on, I saw people laughing with furtive glances in public.  I could remember for the first time when I laughed in ASL in the air, it became free. It changed my life; I still feel the stigma from growing up in the mainstreaming world. I believe that mainstreaming changed the presence of who I am. It is the most reviled label that I lived in that world.

When I was 20, I chose to move out of from a small plot of land in the rural southwestern Washington State town, population of 500, the back door of the single-wide house faces the forest—the fact that I had to escape from vigilant attacks. The stigma by not laughing too much followed me around until I met Deaf scholars. I never knew they knew how to make me laugh! What kept me going? My anger, my guilt, my ignorance.  I had lived in the hearing world. My return to a “normal” life has been slow. I needed to go to ASL festivals more often. With glints of laughing in ASL made a lot of progress where I had opened up to my friends and relatives outside my immediate family.

I realized that laughing is itself a learned behavior. ASL is the language usage to learn. I was intrigued by seeing comedies in ASL to help me identify myself as a Deaf person. The act of role in ASL makes a huge repetitious performance of Deafhood that is dictated by a hearing dominance culture. It questions the idea of laughing in ASL is very important to recognize the state of being Deaf from which hearing world deviates. Learning how to laugh in ASL goes through a fallow period and has some conceptualization of what I am to ASL around me before I can comfortably live in the world. After all, laughing is contagious if it is shared and understood.

-JT

Copyright © 2013 Jason Tozier

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

My Reflection Triggered by the CI question: Deafhood is the Answer

ImageDeafhood Unleashed

[When the oppressed Deaf people discover Deafhood, the chains of oppression start to dissolve and hands becomes free as butterfly]-David Call

Last February 2013, at age 38, I suffered a heart attack, and I was taken to Emergency Room.  After examining my heart condition, while I was resting, I was asked if I would like to have cochlear implants.

It was highly offensive. What they were attempting was to make me a by-product of cochlear implant industry. That day I felt that I was in a Holocaust concentration camp. The air inside the hospital was very still, regardless some doctors were surrounding with their activity.

I thought about driving by the mental hospital and seeing Deaf patients behind the fence. Deaf people on display? It reminded me of the Nazi proclamation: Arbeit Macht Frei (Work makes you free).  Cochlear implants make Deaf people free so they could speak and hear. Asking me about being cochlear implanted was, and is, INHUMANE!

Once I encounter the word Deafhood as the state of being Deaf, the process of linguistic and cultural behavior, and the technology related to communication, I realized that Deafhood requires a lot of self-examination from the perspective of social change, language planning, and how technology affects my future and my membership in the Deaf community. Not only the social determinants of Deaf community with respect to how we use American Sign Language (ASL) as a tool for communication, but also the non-intentional structuring of technology that promotes standards and assumptions of Deaf people.

After all, cochlear implants are not an arbitrary economic style that Deaf people pick and choose. CI are stimulant, just like dogs needing constant praises and treats.

I, JT, offer two characteristics that are distinctively different in my life situation, yet they are similar in my common struggles to find a sense of self within a tension of two cultures. I wonder if I am anything, but a “hero”, and hardly a stereotypical rendition of a Deaf lad. After I read Paddy Ladd’s book on Deafhood and discussed it with several Deaf scholars I met. I enjoyed them as they offered a rare glimpse into a life of a Deaf person in a contemporary situation. I often felt a true confinement of my personal cell as a reflection of my greater potentiality. As my name reflects, I felt “captured” in a situation I felt that I was unable to change.

There were so many other issues I faced. Many stemmed from my painful childhood in which I struggled with issues of Audism and identity crises, as I tried to find a place of my own as a Deaf individual in this contemporary society. I had dealt with depression and coped with the ghosts of my past.

My life is not that typical drawing upon rich imagery and spiritualism to confront my demons. Instead, I was a guy with an unknown Deaf heritage that was in a conflict with by my life issues under which I have viewed through the lens of two cultures.  They are in tension. Yet, it was ultimately my initial connection with a Deafhood progress which saved my insanity. My acknowledgement of my past failures, and my ultimate courage to continue living, to change my future, stemmed in part from my cultural connections.

I am writing to renew myself, my name, and my identity, and to find my connection to my own Deaf heritage. I had been searching for meaning and personal identity in relation to the current time of cultural change and adaptation among Deaf people. I find my own narrative broken up, disjointed, almost as if to convey the literacy and oral “storytelling” technique of traditional Deaf literature.

My story is not linear, but spherical. The use of “distance” thematically shows the estrangement of Deafhood from my culture, my separateness from Deaf community, which stresses holistic, meaningful connections to each other and, to nature. “The country has created a distance as deep as it was empty, and the people accepted and treated each other at a distance. But the distance I felt came not from country or people; it came from within me” (James Welch).  The “distance” is further felt by a general absence that is felt by my narrative. This void is sensed by the lack of personal depth in my life and my desire for a change in the personal circumstances of my life.

After reading Paddy Ladd’s book, it offers me a new sense of purpose, through my connections with my ancestry and coming to terms with my past. My personal estrangement from my Deaf life was suddenly replaced with a new framework rich in cultural identity and meaning. Deafhood has been creating a stark depiction of my lifeblood. Its progress comes with its challenges, and continuing survival, with humor, and perhaps a sad recognition that I must continuously face and sometimes capitalize on stereotypes such as Audism to ensure my survival.

The comparisons that I make with Audism seem to both trivialized and disrepute. As an opponent to Audism, I find such a way to take the understanding of its nature further, philosophically. It is not as easy for Deaf people to consider other species equal, as it is to consider each other equal. The essence of Ladd’s work stands as a call to Deaf people to adjust their mentality in such a way that there is no room for hypocrisy or contradiction. The only manner in which Paddy Ladd downplays Audism is time-related. “Mainstream” liberation movements hold just as much weight as those not widely recognized.

Paddy Ladd employs comparison of Deaf people to human liberation movements in order to promote Deaf rights. In this way, Ladd creates room for the readers to doubt their current mentality. This doubt serves as the foundation on which he builds the rest of his arguments, citing in his book, page seven (7): “You will be asking yourselves why this has not come to public notice before and why someone [else] isn’t doing something about it. One of the aims of this book is to find answers to both questions. For in order to understand how something like this has escaped notice on such a planet-wide, century-long scale, one has to be able to understand the true nature of the society in which we live; how political power, medical and educational dominance and media information strategies interact and reinforce each other to create an overarching form of what is effectively thought control. In other words, to understand how one’s own cultures really operate” His debate urges the reader to question the status quo.

Audism is an everyday influence on our Deaf community. Audism has a great power partly because we don’t talk much about it. I have turned to the book Deafhood to lead myself into the metaphysical world by making manifest the questions I have asked daily: Who am I? With whom shall I deal? And what is my purpose?

Please visit David Call’s website: http://www.eyehandstudio.com

-JT

Copyright © 2013 Jason Tozier

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

Reference:

Ladd, Paddy. Understanding Deaf Culture: In Search of Deafhood. 2003.

Welch, James. Winter in the Blood. New York: Penguin Group, 1986.

Behind Nancy Rourke’s Painting: Mask of Benevolence

Image

Nancy Rourke, a Deaf woman, painted the masterpiece, Mask of Benevolence. I saw there are many interpretations in it before that deciding to purchase it with a firm inclination (which means I am the OWNER of this ORIGINAL painting) to call it Mainstreaming Bigotry and Belittlement” What then is art? Is it more than just a clear-cut reflection of a vivid impression of life? I saw myself in this painting, Mask of Benevolence, because I was bred and buttered into a mainstreaming system within Deaf Education throughout my childhood.

On the surface, this painting seems to remind me of my life, to tell a history of separation from my own selfhood—my Deafhood–which has been scattered to the pieces. This was my childhood wherein ASL was lacking and my daily self-concepts—my ideas of the reality of life—were not the same as I had learned. I would still need to preface my considerable integrity that, first, I am 100% Deaf and that, secondly,  I must apply it to myself.  While growing up, I knew of no Deaf history and very subtle—little enough—about my own state of being Deaf for my background information and knowledge. Both strangeness and stigma had become a norm for me, and I just had to deal with “disability” and to develop accommodations for my life, acquiring necessary educational experiences which were always challenging to me.

However, I had learned always to make the best of my situation, yet always enthusiastic to learn and excel. Nancy Rourke’s painting is about conflict. Conflict within ourselves. It shows faces embodied with all of these other personalities; they are faces that seem to love themselves despite being callous to their own experiences. It is a strange paradox that screams of depth and the power in pure, unadulterated self-reflection. It is a raw statement about the internal individuals within us all. Nancy Rourke’s painting is a complete paradox of both self-love and self-hate.

The Deaf person who signs “STOP” in RED circle which is the most focal key of the painting is portrayed with passion and a complete feeling of apathy. Yet, that person’s face has scratches all over that forces the viewers to do two things: recognize the depths in the face and examine the colors and layering they suggest. These marks almost seem like a purposeful scarification that the person has applied to herself. Each scratch has a layer of contrasting paint underneath the first layer.

This seems to lead into the themes the outer face and personalities offer. To get from the original self to a new sense of self is not an easy task. Often, this task must be performed alone. It involves introspection to the depths of the soul and shatters the current connection between the heart and mind in order to forget a stronger link and a greater sense of self. This link is integral to inner peace and without it, life can feel like a veritable, inescapable sandstorm. I recognized about the personal nature of the journey the painting is all about. We all have a journey to take, and it is important to know our limitations, our abilities to surpass them, and the realization that we have a lot more tools at our disposal than we may realize (both internally and externally).

Now, at age 35, I had discovered Deafhood which has since become my prima facie—my face value, my face truth. In the book, Deaf Identities In The Making written by Jan-Kare Breivik quoting Milan Klara who says that has stood up to my reading eyes: “It is difficult to say who I am in a clear and single statement, because I have no deaf identification and no hearing identification. But I have a little story that says something about who I am—my identity.” Deafhood, coined by Paddy Ladd, has taught me how to see the clash and tension of cultural and social forces. Also, there are many contemporary indictments of the social conditions of educational and economical “poverties” faced by Deaf people as well as the repercussions that affect and break down the social roles of the Deaf world. In addition, fast forward, the people I meet on this journey can greatly affect my path, either for good or for bad.

True to its description, Mask of Benevolence, fundamentally changed and the Deaf person in the painting finds a purpose truer than any she held before. All the other people than the Deaf person, each outer face is sharply blocked into thick boxes who have opposing personalities as it is, with their different perspectives (profile shot and straight on) and expressions of darkness and playfulness. Nancy Rourke was very deliberate in her choice of material. The painting she painted on has an unusual effect that is able to startle the viewer upon closer examination. It is very reflective surface. By painting on this surface, Rourke literally forces people to see their reflection in the surface.

Is Rourke suggesting that these contrasting persons are hidden inside each of us? The cumulative effect of these circumstances produced anger, sadness, and grief, a feeling of isolation, worthlessness, and difficulty motivating myself in most areas of my life. I realized that I was self-medicating for the spiral of negative events that were plaguing me. I thank the word, Audism which appeared into my life and made me feel strong after that. Mask of Benevolence made a statement that Mainstreaming is not the right answer for Deaf children. Although my school teachers had made their classroom “a safe haven” even if one was to fail, I was treated as a fool of myself without judgment.

Where was my right as a student to receive a fair philosophy of reliance upon self-direction and freedom to lead myself to get a fair education? Being DEAF has no privileges in any mainstreaming system. I would like to share the quote, “The struggle of life is between memory and forgetting” by Milan Kundera—which clearly defines my life. That is what Nancy Rourke showed the true sentiments of this painting is all about.

-JT

Copyright © 2013 Jason Tozier

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