Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Comparisons of Colonization between Africans and Deaf Communities


This is an interesting topic that was picked up from the book, "Mask of Benevolence” written by Dr. Harlan Lane. When it was written about the African Community, I was disheartened how much negativity was imposed on them and here you can see what was said... (showing the list)…That was when the Europeans came and studied the Africans then wrote about them how they were uncivilized and that they need to be civilized that fits into their culture. What an ugly list for the Africans, it is a reflection of the Europeans’ desperate need to control them and this is to justify their actions as civilizing an uncivilized people. Like Harlan Lane, I find that striking similar of what hearing experts have so often claimed about Deaf people.

Lane developed a list of the characteristics of deaf people according to the hearing experts in charge of their affairs who give these descriptions in their professional journals and in their textbooks for twenty years. See it for yourself... (showing the list)...

It is a disturbing and appalling list that these descriptions come from studies published in professional journals! Lane said that this is how we portray deaf people to young hearing people who are in training to become their teachers, their doctors, their social workers, and so on. Imagine that!

I am questioning on the reason and the purpose behind this. We already know for a fact that the Europeans colonized the Africans so could it be that it is a reflection of the hearing’s desperate need to impose their will on deaf children by colonizing them?

Here are some examples:

They said: The deaf have poor social awareness.

It really means: I wish my deaf pupils or clients would do what hearing people do in this situation.

They said: The deaf are isolated.

It really means: They can’t understand me or other hearing people and they can’t communicate with us.

They said: These deaf children are disobedient, immature and impulsive.

It really means: I wish they could do what I tell them to do; it’s hard enough teaching them anything without their disobeying.

Africans and Deaf people appear to have one more thing in common:

They are incompetent socially, cognitively, behaviorally, and emotionally.

All traits are unfavorable and negative. The inconsistencies of the trait attributions and their negativity must lead us to suspect that we are dealing in both cases the psychology of the native and the psychology of the deaf not with objective descriptions but with stereotypes.

When developing a philosophy that promotes, whatever that is, for example, banning the use of signs, means that everything will be ok. But in reality, it divided the Deaf Community that caused fighting in between because of this oral philosophy. It is just the same for the Africans facing division because of the interference of the Europeans and for the hearing to promote this kind of philosophy that separates the Deaf. This is based on what the author, Dr. Harlan Lane wrote from his research.

Acting on these stereotypes, hearing administrators of schools for Deaf child have needlessly turned away countless normal Deaf children; psychiatrists acting on these stereotypes have needlessly institutionalized countless Deaf adults in American mental hospitals (how many Deaf people do you know ended up there?); acting on these stereotypes daily set absurdly low goals for Deaf children and approach those goals with inept (lacking in reasoning) means.

Paternalism’s ignorance is self-serving. It is designed to reassure benefactors of the rightness of what they are doing, to protect them from the need for change, and to protect their economic interests. This is what was quoted by Lane who himself is hearing and he knows what he is talking about.

If the profession of Deaf education acknowledged that Deaf children have a language and that manual language is the best way to educate these children, then Deaf adults would once again enter the profession (as they did in the last century) and hearing people would lose their monopoly.

Just like how it happened during the infamous decision from the Milan Conference in 1880 declaring the ban on manual language in schools for the Deaf that eventually banned Deaf teachers to practice in the profession. Oralism was on the rise causing them to lose their jobs that hearing took over. It is all about having their own economic interest. Now what about today? It looks like history is repeating itself. Auditory Verbal Therapy (AVT) bans sign language that they thought they would be better off without using signs. They are the ones taking the profits. Cochlear implant industries benefit from these economic opportunities as well. Could it happen for the Deaf to be out of teaching professions again? No way! We, the Deaf, have the right to be a part of the process. We need to see how the Early Intervention professionals are mostly involved by hearing people. Where are Deaf people involved in this profession? This is an ongoing concern.

Paternalism and money are inseparable!

Now tell me what do you think about certain organizations or industries making money out of Deaf babies, children and adults?

Note: When I mention about "Hearing" people, it is referred to those who don't promote natural signed language, don't respect the Deaf Community, act as oppressors and force the Deaf to use oral method that is against their will.


Ella Mae Lentz said...


Love Harlan Lane, my first boss upon graduating from Gallaudet University back in 1975! Worked with him at Northeastern University, Boston, MA.

Yes, Dr. Paddy Ladd used Dr. Lane's resources for "Understanding Deaf Culture: In Search of Deafhood." Also, Harlan also brought back attention to the word "audism".

Additionally, Harlan has always given proper credit for his information and research TO DEAF PEOPLE that he worked with and learned from.

Let's join hands with you, Barb, Harlan Lane, Paddy Ladd and the many many great thinkers and activists and push for the paradigm shift that's long overdue!

drmzz said...

Barb, good vlog, incredibly demeaning and humiliating for a purpose, indeed! Amen! I’ve vlogged ‘bout the “bad science” aka biased science from such journals I either read or researched for my papers at grad school and I’ve vlogged ‘bout the infant hearing screening pgrm in state of CA that industry (auditory-speech, CI) and state has joined hands. The pgrm have special interest groups (i.e., March of Dimes) push amendment bills w/o knowledge of deaf communities. Their goal is testing ALL deaf babies for hearing loss in the state. And you know where the deaf babies go after such discovery. ASL interventions are only a line of text on a brochure. Only later in child’s life that parents would realize for or from their child that ASL interventions are indeed much needed.

Anonymous said...

I'm a native user of ASL. When the book first came out it was recommended reading material at my college preparatory high school where intelligent hearing students even used this in analogical talk.

When I visited an unhappy girl institutionalized at Maryland school for the Deaf, a state-run facility long plagued, beleaguered by bad controversy (she was pulled out), I thought intellectually stimulating talk can do wonders. Turns out many at the school were ignorantly clueless about Dr. Harlan Lane and other unsung heroes, deaf/hh/h towards the Deaf.

Similarly, I found out that many talk abut Deafhood as if they have a clue about it. Some profess to be knowledgeable. Turns out many failed to answer the most basic questions I asked from that book.

What a facade!

Nice post, though. I hope your example will educate. Hope Regent material pupils from Rochester School for the Deaf understood it.
Reading materials like this must be the norm.


Platonic's Eye said...

Yes, I read that book several times and inspired me very much. It is very useful resources for number of Deaf people. He is a real wonderful. Sometimes when I see I feel like he is a real Deaf person, very comfortable emphatic, I could not describe how magic he is!!! I read two of those books. He is a great psychologist on Deaf very positive.

SlackinPenguin said...

You've just picked the next book for me to read, thanks!

Off to Amazon.com...

observer said...

Thank you, Barb! When I read some of the comments on blogs, I am amazed at how thoroughly some of us have been colonized. When I went to my first Deafhood workshop, this was a radical term for me, but as the talk progressed, I agreed more and more with the idea.

We do not all have to think or say the same thing. No way. As a civics teacher, I could never advocate that. But colonization of the mind is real. It's happened and is happening. Read comments by certain people who jump on others for questioning implants, accusing them of rejecting CI people, when the questioners never said anything about rejection of human beings. And that's only one small example in DeafBlogLand. Scary stuff...

Jean Boutcher said...

Good vlog!

Harlan Lane is one of my heroes. Himself, he revealed the painful truth to Dolnick (1993)* that he was very disappointed that most deaf people have not read his books, including a compendium deaf history in "When the Mind Hears". He explained to Dolnick that some deaf people prefer watching 13 videotapes to reading the book.

It is important for deaf people to be fluidly bilingual and ENJOY reading.

* I was referring to Dolnick as the author of "Deafness as Culture" in 'Atlantic Magazine,' September 1993 -- in addition to the letters of response, ibid. Dec. 1993.

Anonymous said...

Ahem. Read first. Watch movie second. At my college preparatory high school we were forced to read and discuss any materials first before watching a movie. Student population was diverse. We turned out just fine. Many went to Ivy league colleges. No excuses. This has nothing to do with politics. It's hard work!

DE said...

This is an excellent entry- I will include this vlog in my list of required viewings for my Deafhood course. :)

Yes, you are right- paternalism, etc. is inseparable from money. Behind every form of -ism (sexism, racism, and specifically, AUDISM) is economic motivation.

Time for Deaf citizens of the world to unite!


GalaxyAngelz said...

Barb Digi,

Check out my comment respond to you.

Agree w/you more than that..