Deaf ASL-Users Are Protesting Pity!
Culturally Deaf people are standing in solidarity with people with disabilities protesting against pity.
No one likes it when others pity us for who we are: pity demeans us and de-humanizes us. At best, pity may trigger a momentary impulse to donate a few dollars to charity—for example, via Jerry Lewis’ annual US telethon for Muscular Dystrophy. But the pity remains entrenched long after the fundraising events are over. And people don’t just pity the people they give money to. They usually end up pitying any one who they think have disabilities, including people who may not even identify that way—for example proud, ASL-using, culturally Deaf people.
People who pity people with disabilities—or Deaf people—usually never think to challenge the assumption that we should be passive recipients of charity. They don’t think to question why we must still confront barriers to full participation in society, for example the lack of captions or sign language interpreters in many contexts where we need them. Fueling pitying attitudes undermines progress toward social equality for people with ALL disabilities. And, yes, the same pity also hurts Deaf people, INCLUDING Deaf people who abhor the idea that Deafness could equate “disability.” Individuals who pity people with disabilities may be more resistant to explanations about Deaf culture and the important cultural and linguistic issues that affect Deaf people because they are too busy pitying Deaf people for being unable to hear. People who respect the fundamental dignity and human rights of people with disabilities will also be more likely to listen to Deaf people when we talk about the importance of ASL and promoting pride in Deaf culture. People who pity spend less time listening because they mistakenly believe that pity is a noble emotion that they need to preserve by distancing themselves from the real lives, feelings, and beliefs of the people they are trying to pity. (These people need to learn the difference between pity and empathy, https://reunifygally.wordpress.com/2009/01/10/protest-pity/)
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced that it will give Jerry Lewis its Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award on February 22, 2009. Both Deaf rights activists and also disability rights activists object to this award. During his decades of hosting the Labor Day Telethon, Jerry Lewis has perpetuated negative, stereotypical attitudes and pity toward people with muscular dystrophy and other disabilities. And, again, much of the pity that Jerry fuels has ALSO harmed progress for issues important to culturally Deaf, ASL using people as well.
Read and sign the petition protesting this award at: http://www.petitiononline.com/jlno2009/petition.html Strengthen the impact of your signature by using the comments area in the petition to explain in your own words why you support this petition. (Don’t be fooled by the tiny size of the comments window: if you wish, you can fit in several long sentences.)
Join the Facebook Group that is coordinating efforts to protest the award: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=40538392681
Read what other bloggers say about the award, and why both the Deaf community and also the disability community is angry, at https://reunifygally.wordpress.com/bloggers-protesting-pity/
And write your own letter of complaint directly to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences at: http://www.oscars.org/contact/general.html. Polite, tactful letters usually work best.
Please circulate this text freely. Thank you.