The Language of Oppression

by Chris Heuer

I urge you all, please, to go and read Haig A. Bosmajian’s THE LANGUAGE OF OPPRESSION. [ED. NOTE: See book reviews of this title here and here.] Many of the chapters are replete with examples of arcane and contradictory laws that blatantly oppress and terrorize minorities… laws that were still on the books well into the 20th Century (prohibiting white and black people from marrying, voting, etc). So much for the Rule of Law.

The comparatively easier thing to do is make your stand with those who are already in power. There is an oft-repeated story circulating amongst the protesters about a certain congresswoman who said “this protest is way beyond who is right or wrong.” I agree for my own reasons: it’s way beyond right and wrong when one side is using human chains and the other side is using Earth Movers. It’s beyond right and wrong when only one side has the power to fire or expel the other. As much as some of you might detest the protestors, please remember that through this whole thing, only Administration had the formal power to get rid of those protesters, and not the other way around. The protesters never had the power to fire JKF. The BOT is the group that did that.
It’s also easy to side with “law and order” if you aren’t the one being oppressed. How about we all debate a bit about our own “law” right here on campus? Do you realize, ironically enough, that the Free Expression Guidelines have not been dumped yet? That was a possibility during the takeover of HMB… I don’t remember the exact wording but I know I saw it on that list of 24 demands sent to IKJ. And believe it or not Admin did appear to be willing to dump them, provided that the students didn’t camp out overnight. But then all of those demands were rejected by Admin, which me ans the Free Expression Guidelines are still in place–part of our establishment of “order” here on campus.

Now tell me, do you think those Guidelines would stand a chance in hell on any Hearing University within ten miles of Gallaudet? Do you really think the students of Georgetown U would be willing to register two days in advance and get approval first for any sign that they wanted to post up? They’d never do it, and what’s more, the world at large would never expect them to do it, and beyond even that, if they rioted in order to retain/regain their First Amendment Rights, the world wold look upon them with sympathy, and Georgetown U’s President would have been history inside of a week of writing such guidelines (or allowing them to be sent out to the campus). Hell, let me revise that a bit, Georgetown students would never have to riot–Georgetown U would be seen as a joke and nobody would go there!

But with us, people don’t see it that way (re: protesting/rioting). We’re not expected to resist, and we’re a bunch of immature whining crybabies if we do. And as for us going elsewhere, here’s a harsh truth: ADA aside, nobody really gives a damn if we go elsewhere or not, if we are well-educated or not, if Gallaudet is failing or not, if Gallaudet is authoritarian or not. The rest of the world doesn’t expect us to lead the country or work on Wall Street. From what I’ve seen of the rest of the world, it pretty much is just waiting for the day when it can genetically engineer us out of existence, and what’s more, it will be puzzled and outraged should we suggest that being genetically engineered out of existence is perhaps not such a great thing. This is another big reason nobody pays attention to Gallaudet or most state institutions/mainstream programs for the deaf throughout this country–thus allowing them institutions to get away with oppression just shy of the level of an atrocity. The outside world doesn’t understand, doesn’t want to understand, doesn’t care, and has pretty much been pre-programed to be disgusted at the very sight of us.

That being said, let’s now take a look at “order” on this campus–DPS. A good number of them can barely sign. A good number of them have no idea who Carl Dupree was. I verified this for myself. Don’t talk about “order” to me. And don’t tell me DPS is about “safety.” DPS is about doing whatever Admin orders them to do (something you can pretty much say about Gallaudet’s PR Department, too), and that’s a dangerous, explosive, deadly situation waiting to happen. And nobody seems to care. Nobody cared before the protest, and despite the fact that Tom Holcomb had to go to the Hill to get a bunch of politicians to write a letter to IKJ ordering him to care… STILL NOTHING HAS BEEN DONE ABOUT THIS!

Please do not tell me about the protesters “weakening the university” when one of my friends was reprimanded, another placed on Administrative Leave of Absence, and another retaliated against in a more subtle way, for their parts in this protest. Some were deeply involved… but some were not and got hammered anyway! Not that it matters–why are any of these people being reprimanded? Do you really think it’s about law and order? It’s not. It’s about intimidation and keeping up appearances.

I’ll explain: in most states there is usually ONE school for the Deaf, and that’s it. Perfectly understandable that a lot of deaf people would gravitate to these schools to work. Pretty nice thing too, isn’t it, to have the resources of the whole community at your fingertips. Imagine if these institutions treated deaf people with goodwill and respect–imagine how this miserable, despicable failure we call “Deaf Education” in this country could be improved if they did that.

But they don’t. Instead they reprimand their own employees for taking part in the expression of views that might improve the institution. Perhaps some here would argue that some forms of expression are too violent to approve of… I counter with the fact that these same deaf employees have a long history of being ignored and crushed. And it’s stupid that they’re ignored and crushed. Shameful that they’re treated like this. No–it’s criminal. We’ve got an educational machine that spits out deaf high school graduates with fourth grade reading levels and Administrators the country over think that the big answer to this catastrophe is terrifying their own employees back into silence. Which is why nothing has really changed in this field in over a century. That’s what weakens the institution–MBI [Management by Intimidation] and willing participation in the AOP. [Apparatus of Oppression]

So don’t tell me about civility, or the rule of law, or the code of conduct, because I’ve had enough of this bullshit, and that’s why I started protesting in the first place. Don’t think I’m any less frustrated now. What we have here is a sick, horrible system of fear and oppression, and the people finally rose up against it. Don’t expect me to feel anything except proud of each and every one of them.

Word of warning, though: that System isn’t destroyed yet, and if it can it will press us back down. So keep your eyes open, and don’t be lulled back to sleep or guilted into silence by those who are all for law and order so long as they aren’t the ones being crushed.


7 thoughts on “The Language of Oppression

  1. Chris,

    You speak da truth, fo’ shizzle. It all comes down to those who control our destiny – the board of education or something similar in any given state, county or state. Idiots who know nothing about us have the audiacity to write editorals in the Post postulating a view, in a subtle way, that the Deaf community doesn’t know what’s best for us. The fact is, even though most of us can’t finf the right way to express it, so many of us supported this on an extremely, almost animal, gut feeling that we were rising up as a group against the existing status quo which paradoxically preached inclusiveness whilst they were taking actions that were shockingly divisive to the community. Through an almost tortorous process, this only helped to fuel our almost basic instinct to begin to take posesseion of what’s ours.

    Unlike DPN, we shan’t fall asleep for 18 years. I can see us builidng upon the momentum of this newly, highly developed, world of Deaf blogs, among with the unique alliamce of the FSSA, the emboldment of the SBG, and let’s just nod our heads knowlingly when it comes to these BoT members who took a stand. We know tho they are. They know us. The push starts now.

    Empowerment is an endless process.



  2. I think the image of Deaf people has been drastically hurt for people in the outside world. I have not met one outsider who has not asked me what the protest is about.

    The protestors had ONE month to get their side of the story out and no one got it. Sure, it’s easy to blame it on Gally’s PR, but there were protestors on the news, the cameras were on you guys and….nothing. No coherent points were made. The world watched and…nothing. No one outside the Deaf World understands what the issue was.
    Unfortunately, outsiders think the protestors were crazy and I would not be surprised if Gally’s federal funding is cut as well as the state schools for the Deaf. What hearing parent would want their child to attend any school run by a mob?
    The protestors caused a lot of damage, but the worst is yet to come.


  3. While I’m certain there are plenty of folks fitting the description above, I find it highly unlikely that this is the bulk perception of the “hearing world”. Protests happen at many colleges. Most barely leave the “local news” scene, or may show up at a state level. The fact that this hit the national level has raised more attention, and – I think – maybe raised some mainstream awareness. If a school is turning out unacceptable skill rates for graduates, that SHOULD make the public mad. Whose tax dollars support these institutions? The fact that it happens at the university level should make more people angry – tax money, tuition, travel, books, scholarships, grants…
    I’m not predicting any great sweeping changes to happen next week. However, I think that now more people are aware of the problem, and more people in the right places are too. So, I look at this as a good start.


  4. Chris, You have been one of the key contributors to the RSD blog…go to the blog and you’ll see the videos of the town hall meetings…from last spring…


  5. Chris,
    Thanks for saying those!! Lets keep up this kind of dialogue and we will finally move ahead and take our lives in our control.


  6. I agree, and read some of Carl Schroeder’s blog – he explains some of what we should do to improve Gallaudet, especially the one about the Adminstrative Manual. It’s unbelievable.


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