The Deaf Through Hearing Eyes (REVISED)

Since the beginning of time, mankind has strived toward building a sense of community. By nature we emphasize being a functioning part of that community, at times we may feel our community is weak, strong, or troubled-but what does it take to build a true, strong community? What does being a part of a community really mean? The dictionary definition of community is a body of persons or nations having a common history or common social, economic, and political interests or a unified body. However, this textbook definition seems lacking when looking at the Deaf community.


The Deaf community can be described in many ways, as well as through many perspectives. I, myself, am not a part of the Deaf community so I look at it as an outsider. I see the Deaf community as strong, unified, empowered and outspoken, though not without its obstacles. Personally, I have seen this sense of strength in the community when, last year, I visited OSD. While there I saw how close the students were in the way they talked with each other, joked with each other and so on. One thing I noticed about the community at OSD that I felt especially inclined toward was the lack of the “cliques” of an average high school. They did not discriminate each other by way of appearance or personality. In my own opinion, we could all stand to learn a thing or two from the Deaf community. The Deaf are very strong in culture; does this classify them as ethnic?


I don’t believe that the Deaf community can be classified as an ethnic community. In fact, understanding the concept of ethnic is completely out of my grasp. To say one is ethnic in America is to say they are different in such a way as to be excluded. Why is that, I ask? Can we not have open arms and accept all? Is our sense of pride so great that we cannot learn to adapt our culture to others as well? If we did that, no community would ever be ethnic because we would all share the same foods, ideas, so on. Though as individuals we may hold separate beliefs, we would know of their beliefs without judgment. When it comes to the Deaf community, to see them as ethnic is simply a state of perspective. We see them as ethnic for the same reason we see any community as ethnic, because we choose to. I believe the Deaf community is rich in knowledge and culture as any “ethnic” community is, and to exclude them or any other community is an act of insolence, as well as ignorance, on our part. In order to fully understand this concept, one must first look at the beginning.


The Deaf community began as any community would. Deaf children were not understood by hearing parents and they did not quite know what to do. For the longest time it was thought the deaf could not communicate, let alone think for themselves. Though, things did begin to change when, in 1817, the first school for the deaf was established. When this happened the deaf were starting to be seen as able to learn, yet, they were still majorly underestimated. Then the full-time boarding schools began to open and parents dropped their children off without a word of explanation. Slowly the deaf throughout America found one another and discovered the unity of a community, and that’s when the culture flourished. The formation of this cultural community suggests a world of ideas about deaf people’s abilities, desires and interest. First and foremost, a deaf person is still a person. Human thoughts, feelings, ideas, and all--to treat them otherwise is insanity. A deaf person still wants to be involved, socialized and use his or her own special ability to make his or her place in this world. The implication made to the rest of the world by the development of the Deaf community is simply that a deaf person is none other than human. The Deaf community being formed showed all of us hearing people that deaf people desired understanding, that they wished to socialize with those who have a common interest, and that their abilities had great potential just like anyone else.

However strong the Deaf community may be, challenges do exist within-as with any other community. One major challenge has always been the rift between the deaf and the hearing. For example, “DPN” at Gallaudet University, where a hearing person with very little ASL capabilities was hired (up against strong, Deaf competition) as the dean to a school full of Deaf youth. This shows how cruelly us hearing discriminate the Deaf. Continuously they are misunderstood and this creates seemingly preventable obstacles. I have learned in my ASL class that the deaf find it hard to get jobs as actors, or even jobs in general.

Yes, the Deaf community has its challenges. Yet it shows us how outstanding a community it really is through those very struggles. The Deaf community has stood out, though it took some time to climb over its mountains, it did so with strength and dignity. The Deaf community may have stumbled but it was not so full of pride that it failed to recognize its mistakes, as often the “mainstream” community does.


I can see from what I have learned as well as from watching “Through Deaf Eyes” that the Deaf have learned from their mistakes. I believe that the Deaf community is filled with vigor and zealous, yet is friendly and accepting. When I look at the Deaf community I see an empowerment that I as an individual wish to strive for and I must admit, at times I even wish I were Deaf.





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FromTheHeart14 said...
Apr. 10, 2013 at 8:46 pm
This article is so true, the deaf community is underestimated, thought about as though they can't do anything. Yet, they can do anything, except hear. I am learning ASL, and have learned so much more than I ever thought I would, keep writing, this was fabulous!
 
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