A Cookie Cutter Image

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For my Deaf Literature class that I am taking, I was required to read a book called “Bug: Deaf Identity and Internal Revolution” by Christopher “Bug” Jon Heuer. I would highly recommend his book to those of you who enjoy reading. He is quite the revolutionist and non-conformist. Anyways, the reason I am writing this blog has more to do with something that Heuer said in his anecdote “Red Is Stop, Deaf Is…?” that really caught my attention.

I have been thinking over the past few months or so about the complaints that some of my Deaf friends (Gallaudet students) are making, concerning their ASL and Deaf Studies classes. First, let me say that my friends (and I included) strongly support ASL classes and Deaf Culture classes for the Deaf. Hearing people grow up taking English, writing English, and studying their history and culture. Deaf people should be allowed the same privilege to study their language and culture as well.

Anyways, back to my point. I have been noticing a similar complaint spreading through the freshmen class in particular about the oppression they are facing in their ASL/Deaf Studies classes. It seems as though the students feel that some of their Deaf teachers are imposing a standardized ASL vocabulary and view of Deaf culture on their Deaf students.

At any rate, here is what Heuer says about the matter, which I find particularly interesting and insightful:

“[speaking of labeling people] I say ‘Black.’ What meaning do you attach to the word? Do you see some hooded drug pusher in a DC alleyway? I say ‘woman.’ What do you see? A house-wife?

“…I say ‘Deaf.’

“What do you see? Do all Deaf people have to sign in ASL? Do they all have to dislike cochlear implants? Can they want hearing babies and not Deaf ones?

“Is there enough room in your mind for everything deafness can be? Or do you have to chop the arms and legs off of deafness so it fits into some cookie-cutter image you can live with?”

I think Heuer has a point. Deaf people sometimes limit themselves when they only accept those who meet the rigorous requirements of what it means to be “Deaf” and can assimilate into this specific mold of what the “ideal” Deaf person is like.

From what I am learning in Biology, lack of diversity (i.e. assimilation)=extinction. Isn’t that the one thing that Deaf people fear the most? Having their culture and language taken away from them? Well, if this ever occurs, I do not think it would be because the bad hearing people in the world take it away, but because a lack of diversity phased it out. Well, at least its something to think about.

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