On Wednesday, April 18, 2012, a Hoosier citizen who is deaf was arrested for not leaving the Statehouse as it was closing. This citizen had sat on a bench for 3 and a half hours with a sign that stated, "1. 82% Deaf on ISD Board 2. Increase fund to ISD3. Unstack the "stacked" on sub-committee for the new outreach center 4. Close school during State Fair.” It also said the following, "Hey, My DEAF children are getting unfair treatment at ISD. Thanks to (NOT MY MAN MITCH)”. School pictures of the kids and HB1367 were included
This citizen sat next to the Governor's office for the duration he was there. The Governor did make eye contact with him but never met with him. At the day's end, Peter Miller, the newest state senator (taking over from Linda Lawson through special election and one of the architects of HB 1367) had approached the citizen, cajoling and patronizing with the request to leave. It was during this time that Miller overstepped cultural bounds by ignoring this citizen's request to stop touching him. Finally, when Miller got the gist that our Deaf Hoosier was not leaving his seat, he presented only two options with a check box before each on paper: "Go Home" or "Go to Jail". While our citizen was shocked, it was not a question of which, but to make a stand - the choice of going to jail was made. State troopers were called and they reluctantly arrested him; however, it was immediate that our citizen's rights were violated - he was arrested without an interpreter and he was unable to make a phone call as allotted by his right as the police never gave him that chance; besides do they have telephone accommodations? I doubt it.
To make a comparison - our Rosa Parks is Brian Bauer, an outspoken activist who was arrested. To this day, I have been unable to find a public record of his arrest, via media. So, thus, the topic of this blog is civil rights and closely following human rights.
The clearest understanding of civil rights is within our personal histories in America. Civil rights became predominant in the 1950's and 60's largely in thanks to the Black American community. But this endeavor is not a new idea or movement. We can see throughout recorded human history the consistency of civil and human rights on various scales. The Votes for Women is a civil right movement. Children abuse is a civil right, meaning that children do not have to be abused just because they are children and unable to fend for themselves.
So how should civil rights be applied to the deaf population? First off, the history of deaf education has spilled over to the deaf community at large. There has raged a battle of education methods for deaf children that has influenced how deaf people behave towards each other and this has hurt us the most as citizens and human beings. We are by nature different from one another and we naturally are attracted to those who are like ourselves, "like attracts like".
"Civil rights are the basic legal rights a person must possess in order to have such a status. They are the rights that constitute free and equal citizenship and include personal, political, and economic rights. No contemporary thinker of significance holds that such rights can be legitimately denied to a person on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, or disability." -Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/civil-rights/
“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” - The Universal Declaration of Human Rights/United Nations http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/
Whether we acquired deafness at birth, early childhood, or later years, we all are still humans and we have the right to all options and make that decision to the best of our ability. Brian's civil rights were violated because as a citizen, he was carted off to jail. Yes, even as it was his choice, he was denied the opportunity to exercise his right to due process and demonstration. Gov. Daniels also exercised his right to not meet with Brian as a citizen; however, he has a responsibility to uphold his office and is an employee of Brian who is a taxpayer and has children in the public school system. (yes Indiana School for the Deaf is a public school, specialized nonetheless public)
How is it that our children will grow up in fear of the government which has taken civil rights away from its populace, simply because they fear us so? The 14th Amendment was ratified with 3/4 of states in 1868 and fully ratified in 2003 (37 states based by 1868 number of states) to give black people (any male of any color and etc.) the right to vote over the age of 21 years old. The 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote. All in all, the actions taken by civil rights movements had positive results. Oddly, come to think of it, it was a legal process that placed the 14th Amendment on the constitutional map rather than a civil movement; however, it led to the civil rights movement for the Black American community because of the consistent discrimination against their skin color.
So what would our civil rights be? Access to medical health, education, public arenas... really basically everything.
The history of the Deaf Movement has been sporadic; 1988 and 2006 Gallaudet Protests, ummm, I can't think of any more. I welcome more information.
We may be deaf, hard of hearing, or hearing impaired in the eyes of the majority; we are still humans.
National Association of the Deaf has its position on Civil Rights - http://www.nad.org/issues/civil-rights
Deaf Notes: http://deafnotes.com/ubb/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=319
Sources for Civil Rights & 14th Amendment
Constitution Amendments (XIV is 14) http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution_amendments_11-27.html
To Be Whole
Currently I am an ASL teacher at a local college and at an high school. I received my Masters in Sign Language Education from Gallaudet University. At home, I am an activist within the community, Northwest Indiana. My son is in first grade and my daughter goes to E.C.L.I.P.S.E. ASL Preschool. Change begins with you and change is effective with a team.