Thursday, September 29, 2011

Stand Up

"Negative experience becomes positive"

So......I am quite late with my "It's a Deaf Thing" post this week. It is a bad presentation for a Deaf Awareness week. Sorry! Let me add a link to a post that my friend typed up---you might find this interesting: Deaf Awareness. Feel free to check it out!

I want to share an experience that I had that originally started out to be quite terrible and turned into something very positive. 

I am 15-year old just starting out my first semester as a Freshman in high school. I have a lab partner who is also my friend, Carly, and we are just finishing up our lab work. Since we are finishing up what we are supposed to do; we start to chat, and the best part about signing/writing is that we don't make any noises! Our teacher is out sick and we have a sub teacher that day. Our sub teacher is an older lady, in her late 50s, and she is your typical grouchy old lady. I don't think much of her. 

My sign language interpreter, Maria, joins in the chat for a bit when the sub teacher, we will call her Mrs. B, approach us. She does not look at me or Carly. She simply bows slightly to my interpreter and notifies her that she has to tell us that we have to be quiet. Maria, being an advocate for her role as an interpreter and for Deaf people's equality, explains that she is merely there to translate what Mrs. B has to share with me. Mrs. B grows upset. She insists that an interpreter is very similar to having an aide or even worse, a babysitter. Maria laughs and says, "You see, I am Ashley's ears and voice. I do not act as her conscience. I do not tell her what to do. My role as American Sign Language interpreter is simply to interpret. If you have something to say then say it to her by looking at her. I will voice for you and also for her."

The class grows curious and looks at us. They stop working on their assignments. 

Mrs. B scowls, not liking what Maria said to her, and she ignores what she is just told. Mrs. B continues to argue with Maria. I do not like what is transpiring and grow frustrated with Mrs. B's lack of understanding. How is it hard for her to look at my face and just tell me to be quiet? I finally say, through Maria, to Mrs. B that she needs to face me and just tell me. After all, she has been doing that with other students so why not me? Mrs. B shakes her head and says to Maria, "No, don't voice for Ashley. I do not want to hear what she has to say. I am telling you to control her." Maria sighs and tries to explain her role as an interpreter once again. 

I start to see red. Control me? I am not a child. I am a teenager. I am not a vulnerable person who needs physical help to get around. I am perfectly capable of doing anything...except hear and speak. I try to sign to Maria to notify Mrs. B to not be so ignorant. Maria decides not to voice that part for me which I think is really unfair because other students can just say what is on their mind yet I can't? I wait to see if Maria can resolve this issue with Mrs. B. Suddenly, Mrs. B disdainfully replied while looking at me, You are a handicapped person. Handicapped people SHOULD NOT be mainstreamed. They belong in an institution. Out of our minds. Out of our sights. You are disgusting. And you (to Maria) obviously cannot control this handicapped child. 

Maria simply gapes open her mouth. She has been stunned into silence. I try to get her attention. She simply shakes her head. With no way to express my disapproval with what Mrs. B had just said, I suddenly decide to take a dramatic course. I turn to Mrs. B and gives her a big smile. I make sure she sees the message clearly. The message is: You want out of control handicapped child? I will give you one!  I pull my open textbook closer to me, and I slam it shut as hard as I can. WHAM! I pushed my chair back out then crossed my arms and quit smiling. I narrow my eyes at Mrs. B. 

In this very moment, I have never felt so worthless, so different, and so .... alien. I try so hard not to form tears. Anger is coursing through my blood. To be discriminated over again and again and stupid hearing people are!

Suddenly, as if my thoughts are being heard, a black girl stands up and says, Uh uh no. You ain't doing this! Someone else stands up and says, That is wrong! More people start standing up and starting to proclaim what Mrs. B had done was UNFAIR, WRONG, RUDE, MEAN, STUPID, and FULL OF BS. Within seconds, before my eyes; the entire classroom is standing up for me, and they are shouting at Mrs. B. 
I don't need Maria to interpret what is going on. I know what is happening and why. 

I realize that my earlier thought about hearing people being stupid is....frankly....stupid and untrue. When I think I am at my lowest, I am being brought up by people who sincerely care, and fight for my right especially in the face of discrimination. In that very moment, I understand that it is not about Hearing vs. Deaf, and it is about standing up for each other especially if someone is different from us. In that very moment, I am being taught a lesson and the lesson is to not assume the worse about a particular group because they may surprise you. In that very moment, I no longer feel worthless, or different, but a part of something bigger and someone who is worth it. I feel inspired. Here is a bunch of people; black, white, punk, nerd, gay, straight, academic smart, street name it, and that person is probably there....they all are standing up for me. What hits me the most is that some of people who are standing up for me.....I don't know who they are, and they are not my friends or people I hang out with yet they take their time to make it known about what happened to me is not okay. 

That lesson has left a mark on my heart ...people care. 

I will never forget that experience. I am 26 years old now and I still remember this as if it happened yesterday. 

People care. 

Doesn't matter if you are black, Asian, Native American, Hispanic, Arabic, or white. Don't matter if you are rich or poor. Makes no difference if you are GLBT or straight. Doesn't reflect on your gender. Doesn't matter if you are fat or skinny. Doesn't matter if you are pretty, or plain looking. Doesn't matter how smart you are in school or on the streets. Doesn't matter if you are a Christian, Jew, Pagan, Lutheran, Islamic, or an Atheist. Doesn't matter how old you are....5 years old, 15, 30, or 50 or 100 years old. None of all that matters.

 Caring comes from your heart. 

So if you see discrimination going on then please stand up. Don't turn your eyes away and feel bad about what is going on. Don't shake your head and whisper, man, that is not right and not do anything about it. Don't wince and pretend like you haven't seen that just not to embarrass the victim any further. 

Just step in. Speak up. Be proactive. 

It will make the world of difference. Trust me, I know. This has changed my life in both small and big ways.


  1. This post warms my heart, Ashley! Brought tears to my eyes.

  2. Wow. That story is unbelievable. I am so proud of your classmates for standing up to that bigoted woman. I hope I'd do the same thing.

    Do you know if there were ever consequences for her behavior?