SASLJ Vol. 2 No. 2 - Page 65

Audism Humphries It is only in the past few years that I have been able to recognize some of the forces working against me as a deaf person as being audism. Most of my life I have been an audist. And even now, still have some behavior and values that are basically audist. I believe this to be the result of being brought up as a hearing person with basic hearing person behavior and values in a hearing society that is audist. Being hearing or raised as hearing does not automatically make one an audist but given our society and its views of deafness, it is almost a certainty. What is this audism? It is the bias and prejudice of hearing people against deaf people. It is the bias and prejudice of some deaf people against other deaf people. It is manifested in many ways. It appears in my own life in the form of people who continually judge deaf people's intelligence and success on the basis of their ability in the language of the hearing culture. It appears when the assumption is made that the deaf person's happiness depends on acquiring fluency in the language of the hearing culture. It appears when deaf people actively participate in the oppression of other deaf people by demanding of them the same set of standards, behavior, and values that they demand of hearing people. It appears in the class structure of the deaf culture when those at the top are those whose language is that of the hearing culture or closest to it. It appears when deaf people refuse to believe, accept, or give value to the language of their own culture. It appears when deaf people in positions of power keep this power by oppressing other deaf people. (The oppression is rationalized in various ways such as not being fluent in the language of the hearing culture, not having the ability necessary to perform in the hearing culture, i.e., speech, not having the credentials of the hearing culture, not having the experience necessary to fill a position, etc.). It appears when deaf and hearing people have no trust in deaf people's ability to control their own lives and form the systems and organizations necessary to take charge of the deaf as a group to seek social and political change. It appears when deaf persons in power are in reality holding this power only as long as they continue to play the hearing role. It appears in many other ways subtly and obviously, directly and indirectly, intentionally and unintentionally, consciously and subconsciously. It occurs in the form of tokenism. Again and again, organizations and committees have gotten their token deaf person or two and considered themselves to be doing a good deed. There is never any thought of a majority of deaf people in these organizations and committees. One deaf person is still one vote. And what is one vote? Another form of tokenism is in the hiring of schools and colleges which have deaf student bodies. Where do you have a school or college with a majority of deaf faculty? You don't. But you do have institutions feeling pride if 25 percent of their faculty is deaf. What kind of pride is this? 25 percent? Would an all black college stand still for a 75 percent white faculty today? Audism occurs in one million and one excuses and rationalizations. Some of the most common are: "The deaf must learn English (forget ASL) because when they grow up they will have to function in the hearing society and need it to find good jobs, find happiness, and have full and useful lives." "We want to hire more deaf people but there just are not any deaf Ph.D's." SASLJ, Vol. 2, No. 2 – Fall/Winter 2018 65