Deaf people's resistance against oppression

There are many forms of resistance against a systemic and individual oppression that Deaf people as well as Black, First Nations, etc. have faced over the distant past years.

Resistance against a systemic oppression

Deaf President Now (1988) was one of the most unforgettable historical events. When the last hearing white male president retired in 1987, leaders and supporters in the Deaf communities nationwide joined together to urge the Board of Trustees to select a first deaf president.

The Board of Trustees narrowed down to a shortlist of 63 deaf candidates and three hearing candidates. Then, the final candidates were a hearing woman Dr. Elisabeth Zinser and two deaf candidates Dr. Harvey Corson and Dr. I. King Jordan. The Board of Trustees announced the appointment of Zinser as Gallaudet's next president.

In protest to this decision in March 1988, Gallaudet students and supporters launched the DPN (Deaf President Now) movement with four demands: 1) deaf president 2) the chair of the Board of Trustees to be resigned 3) at least 51% of the deaf Board of Trustees 4) no reprisals.

During the week-long protest, Zinser finally resigned. I. King Jordan was selected as Gallaudet's eighth president and first deaf president. Philip Bravin was selected as the first Deaf chair of the Board of Trustees and the members of the Board of Trustees fulfilled the 51 percent of the Deaf members. No reprisals.

A deaf guy told his story in the documentary video "Unveiled Audism". When he was kid, he was tired of his hearing aids. He came up a plan to lose his hearing aids forever. Before a buyer came to his father's house to take the truck, he planted his hearing aids under the truck. When the buyer came to pick up the truck and drove away, it was a happy bye-bye!

Resistance against an individual oppression

Egypt-born American Nabil told me a true story in the 1990s. Watch the video in ASL or read a summary in English below.

In a California restuarant, over the course of a meal, a group of hearing guys made fun of the Deaf guys in the next booth. The deaf guys tried to ignore them and stayed cool. Worse, the hearing guys threw pieces of food over to the deaf group's table. One of the Deaf guys angrily stood up. Nabil intervened, "Wait, I have a suggestion."

Nabil wrote a note, walked toward the waitress, and showed the waitress a note. As the hearing group anxiously eyed on him, the waitress read the note. At that moment, Nabil looked at the hearing guy and raised his hand and nodded his head. The hearing guy(s) worriedly raised his hand and nodded back. The waitress acknowledged and left. Nabil came back to the table. Then they left the restaurant.

The hearing guys enjoyed their last moments until the bill arrived. They looked at the bill which cost about the double and summoned the waitress about this error. The waitress explained that the hearing group agreed to pay for the Deaf group -- e.g. they raised hand and nodded. After some dispute, finally the hearing guys unhappily paid in full. As they went outside and noticed that the Deaf group was still there in the parking lot. Nabil walked toward the hearing group and handed the cash to them (repaid for the their food). The Deaf had outsmarted them. The hearing guys apologized in humility.

Those examples are just a few of endless resistance actions against the oppression at all levels, especially before any policies were adopted. With a policy that protects diversity, equality/equity, and inclusitivity, it's easier to go through the process. Without policy, we were on our own, coming up creative ways to overcome oppression.

These are some ASL lessons, tutorials, and tips that ASL students and language enthusiasts can explore and learn some ASL on their own relaxing pace.

Seeking some challenges? Try some stories, fables, and others in ASL storytelling and poetry. Study a complex system of subtle eye gazes, role-shifting, classifiers, sentence structures, and other linguistic features as well as poetics.