To the Editor:
Yes, your comments are true. There is controversy about Deaf culture. Why must it be controversial? It seems that “Deaf culture” is like almost any other culture! With the exception of there being no recognized location of its beginning. But, many other cultures with a geographical beginning that’s agreed upon by most people are themselves controversial! Is this controversy a natural thing? In a way it is! Any time it seems to me that values or experiences influence identity there is bound to be controversy. But is controversy something to avoid? I don’t think so! If controversy gets people to consider different ideals and ideas then it’s a good thing!
True, “Deaf culture” is political. What isn’t? Any culture is political! Any theory or ideal is political. If the theories and/or ideals are not political in themselves, then the way they exist among other theories or ideals is. While d/Deaf in the United States are part of American culture, why cannot we be both a culture in ourselves as well as part of another culture? I don’t think that being part of American culture cuts someone off from another culture! True, they may primarily identify themselves as part of another culture other than Deaf culture. But they may also identify themselves as part of Deaf culture! And this is a good thing! Then the person is identifying themselves according to the values they identify with. There are deafs who do not sign and who do not go to a local Deaf club and who do not identify themselves as Deaf.
True, there isn’t a distinct full-fledged culture. But this is also true for geographic cultures within the United States. I see this as more a values thing than almost anything else.
My opinion is that “Deaf culture” and deaf community” are not really conflicting. While there is a Deaf culture there is also a deaf community. I enjoy the deaf community. And I enjoy the Deaf culture! The deaf “community” is more informal and local. When I go to Deaf club, it’s more of a community. But it doesn’t deny that there is a Deaf culture. When I read different sites, books, magazines, go to conventions, etc. . . . it’s more formal. I see this as Deaf culture. And that’s fine! My gosh, they are not opposites. Also, it seems to me that many who don’t see the validity of being deaf also deny that there is a Deaf culture. To me, the opponents of deafness being opposed to Deaf culture is like anyone else who wants to deny a lifestyle. They deny the culture and use that as a means of denying that the lifestyle is valid. And then say that because there is no lifestyle there can be no culture. How can this be? Do they think we are as simple as they are? My gosh! We live a complex lifestyle and lead a complex life!
In a way, that’s true about the elitism. I see this in any group. I’m not sure if this is human nature or not! But elitism also happens when there is not a culture. Elitism happens with almost any group it doesn’t matter how homogenous they are. There are always people who put themselves above others. Because we are human beings we have a tendency to try to better ourselves we learn, we study, we plan, we practice. We try to better ourselves. Is this human nature or values from Western cultures? I honestly believe this is not limited to certain cultures. It’s world‑wide.
True, there are Deaf cultural purists. I wonder if they are not just pushing for themselves? I fear this type [of] elitism. There are cultural purists in any culture. This helps the identification of Deaf as a culture! While I am very sad with this kind of purity, it also shows “us‑them.”
Right! The deaf community includes the families of deafs. I could also say that Deaf culture includes families as much as any other culture includes families. And this is a good thing. We need to respect other cultures and be respected by other cultures as well. When other cultures do not respect Deaf culture I take that personally! They are saying that my choice of which culture to identify with is wrong! I take pride in my cultural identity! And I get a lot of fear when someone else tells me that my cultural identity is wrong! Who gave them the right to decide for me what my cultural identity is?! My identity is my own choice!
I see myself as part of both Deaf culture and deaf community.
Thank you for letting me share my views.
J. J. Schmidt