The sound of power | Deaf Awareness Month

Hello, I’m Rogan and welcome. Recently, Daily Moth did a video about a situation that inspired this video. I won’t go into details of that situation, and I’m going to be speaking broadly here. Today, I just wanted to do a brief video that’s more of a reminder than anything really.

For a long, long time, hearing people have taken roles that would best suited with a deaf person in that role or job. This would include teaching ASL, acting in a deaf or signing role, or being on a board or admin of a deaf organization or school. And it’s their hearing privilege that allows them to take these roles and positions. To be clear, these jobs are often taken by hearing people who barely sign or don’t know how to sign at all. This is nothing new, this has been happening for as long as there have been deaf roles in media.

To hearing people who DO know sign. Interpreters, CODAs, anyone related to deaf people, or anyone who has ties with the deaf community. You have a lot more privilege than deaf people or signers. More often than not, the people in power are hearing and will consciously or unconsciously believe, support and bond with the person who they can communicate with directly, which is almost always the hearing person, over the person with whom they can’t. It’s your responsibility to be aware of your power in these situations. If it’s appropriate, always defer to the deaf person and make it clear that you should not be considered for this role. Use your privilege to pave the way towards better representation of deaf people in everything.

When a hearing person is chosen over a deaf person, we often hear the rebuttal that it’s because “they [the deaf person] is not qualified.” Often in these cases, what looks like a lack of qualifications is really a reflection of how many more barriers we have to overcome in hearing society, often to the point of never having the opportunity to even try. This disparity is another place where privilege comes into play. People who have speaking ability and choose to use it are often favored over those who don’t.

And this privilege when taken advantage of, yes might lead to roles being taken from deaf actors but can also extend into far more serious situations in which deaf people are given the short end of the stick. 

A group of deaf people and one hearing person goes to a restaurant together and the hearing person is the only one who decides to speak. Who is the server going to turn to from now on?

A cop shows up to domestic dispute between a hearing and deaf couple. Who is the cop most likely to believe?

A hearing family member goes to the hospital with a deaf patient. Who is the doctor most likely to side with when it comes to making decisions?

Hearing and speaking privilege goes beyond taking roles for a tv commercial. For some of us deaf people, it can come at a great cost. Don’t forget that.

Please feel free to comment below your thoughts, but keep it civil and no putting down anyone.

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Published by Rogan Shannon

Hello there! I'm Rogan, a queer deaf guy who has a passion for leadership and advocacy. I create YouTube videos about a lot of different topics - being deaf, queer, reading, language, and whatever else interests me!

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