Black Deaf Community: Doubly Oppressed
I published my “Music Festival Interpreters On The Road: Where are the Black Interpreters?” article on August 6, 2021. In the article, I referred to Amber Galloway’s Amber G Productions company, which employed two Black ASL hearing interpreters, Jahmeca and Kiarah, for Lollapalooza Festival 2021. The mentioning of her name and agency sparked intense criticism toward my article.
Never mind her interpreting agency has a contract with this festival, and we, Deaf and Hard of Hearing concertgoers, were offered free wristbands to attend this festival, wristbands that her agency obtained for us. There’s no way for me to pass this rare opportunity up, as I mentioned in my recent article. I never attended a musical festival all my life due to insufficient ASL accessibility and ticket affordability, since the largest musical festivals are so inaccessible and expensive.
Noticeably, the biggest takeaway from my article is I somehow glorified Amber Galloway, white hard of hearing woman interpreter, for facilitating much-needed language accessibility for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing concertgoers.
In the first photo, I took a picture of Kiarah during the Megan Thee Stallion concert. I struggled to take a perfect picture of Kiarah and Megan because Megan was on the constant move to perform for her fans. Yes, that’s the same concert Kelly Kurdi went viral due to the power of the white gaze. In the second photo, you will ascertain Kiarah standing in front of me across from Kelly to ensure that Kelly signed Megan’s song accurately.
Apparently, I learned that some Black hearing ASL Interpreters view Amber Galloway as George Wallace of Alabama. George Wallace, former Alabama Governor, was one of the most recognizable segregationist figures during the Civil Right movement of the 1960s who stood in the way of integration. He proclaimed his infamous line, ‘segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever’ in his pro-segregationist speech.
I keenly observed their visceral opposition against Amber Galloway has nothing to do with my immediate concerns about the challenges of Black Interpreters at the musical festival. My immediate concerns became evident when I attempted to address a Black interpreter’s comments under my deleted thread. This interpreter discarded my perspective like I was not knowledgeable about certain issues, despite that I attended the Lollapalooza festival, not them.
My takeaway of the criticism toward my article is my perspective, my observation, and my thoughts were outright rejected. Some Black hearing interpreters eagerly reminded me of my doubly-oppressed status as Black Deaf man in America that they always have subcaste privileges over me.
We are currently living within the current racial caste system, in which our skin pigmentation automatically determines our assigned racial positions upon our birth. Our predetermined position either magnifies or exacerbates our privileges. Our privileges come in countless forms, including class, gender, sexual orientation, able-bodied, color skin tone, and the list makes our assigned position easier or not. Every minority community, including the Deaf community, has its own subcaste system, which derives from the existing caste system in America.
As a matter of fact, some Black Deaf people are not accepted to the Black community due to their ineffectual auditory and speech processing skills due to hearing loss. Ability to converse in sign language is historically tied to the Deaf community. In other words, Black Deaf people who only communicate in sign language are not Black enough. Black Deaf people are being ignored, erased, and cast out of Black communities through the existing subcaste system in the Black community. I further elaborated about the historical context of the subcaste system regarding the experience of Black Deaf people in America in my article called 3 Strikes and You’re Out: Audism in Black communities last August.
“Being both Black and Deaf is in many ways a “double whammy” because of society’s abrogation of each of these two minorities. When the conditions of Blackness and deafness are combined in one person, the individual effects of prejudice, discrimination, and negative self-image are compounded exponentially”.- Dr. McCay Vernon from “Black and Deaf in America: Are We That Different” book.
I wrongly predicted my Black Deaf voice will be elevated for my attempt to bring the spotlight on the challenges of Black interpreters. Instead, some Black hearing interpreters chose to use their subcaste privileges to diminish my recent article. The fact is I wrote that does not correlate to their narrative about Amber Galloway. Now, I realized the role of audism of criticism toward my article led to an erasure of Black Deaf voices like mine. Some confided in me that their Black Deaf voices were being erased.
Over the social media platform, a Black Hearing Interpreter had an unexpected discussion with me, who sought to invalidate my current work to raise racial awareness in both the Deaf and interpreting professions. He arrogantly questioned my blackness and belittled my understanding of structural racial oppression, because he does not support my article that does not match his narrative about Amber Galloway and her agency. It is clear that some Black hearing people do not unpack their subcaste privileges and biases over Black Deaf people whose views and experiences would be different from them. Our discussion can be found below.
Discussion with Black Hearing Male Interpreter
Discussion with Black Hearing Male Interpreter - Free download as Powerpoint Presentation (.ppt / .pptx), PDF File…
Thanks to the controversial criticism toward my article, I recall Ritchie Bryant’s first three vlogs to address his concerns about how Black hearing interpreters use subcaste privileges over Black Deaf people and Black Deaf interpreters. I completely understood his concerns better than I was on June 28, 2021.
Ritchie Bryant said in his RID Board ZOOM vlog, At 3:08, he posed an earth-shattering question for Black hearing interpreters, when he needed your support, and Black hearing interpreters backed away from him, which led him to reckon an uncomfortable question about why should he support them after all? That’s something he will be thinking about.
Thanks to Richie Bryant’s Dr. Webb and Tenet 3 vlog, I looked up the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf’s 7 tenets for the Code of Professional Conducts, and realized that some Black interpreters blatantly violated their 4th tenet: Interpreters respect the consumers conduct because my article does not fit their narrative of Amber Galloway. Consequently, my article was being diminished in some of their eyes.
As we know, there are scant of Black hearing interpreters as our language facilitators and community advocates. They have the subcaste privileges to opt out of being our community advocate, whatever that suits them and their needs, as well as they are pleased.
It’s no wonder why the famed author Zora Neale Hurston’s ‘all my skinfolk aint kinfolk’ quote is true, because the existing subcaste system in Black communities is true to this day.