Ethnic Minorities in America Essay

2219 Words 9 Pages
Ethnic Minorities in America

In the United States the term "minority" often infers membership within an ethnic or cultural minority group. However, this term also encompasses other groups that lack equality, such as women, homosexuals and people with disabilities. By definition, the hearing majority classifies Deaf people as minorities because of their inability to hear. Yet linguists and social scientists argue that the basis of Deaf people's status as a minority group is not one of disability, but as a cultural and linguistic minority (Lane, Hoffmeister and Bahan: 1996: 335-6). In order to assert that Deaf people are a linguistic and cultural minority in America the characteristics of a minority group must first be defined.
…show more content…
(Humphrey and Alcorn, 1995: 85)

Unequal treatment and the lack of power are phenomena Deaf people have endured throughout time because of their inability to hear. Historically hearing people viewed deafness as a defect of the mind and body and they did not afford the Deaf the right to an education, own property or sign contracts.

Deaf people have long been subjugated by hearing people in all areas of life. The most blatant act of audism occurred in the education of Deaf children. From 1880 until today hearing people have dictated that the method of education utilized should be one that enables the Deaf to more readily assimilate into the mainstream society. In order to achieve this goal, Deaf children were forced to wear auditory trainers (machines that supposedly allowed them to listen to teachers' voices) and were slapped with rulers if they attempted to sign or gesture out of frustration. (Graybill video) The focus of Deaf education was not about teaching Deaf children material appropriate to grade level but altering behavior and improving speech ability. Even with such an antagonistic environment the Deaf were forced into obtaining an education - but for what means? Until 1880 many Deaf people worked as teachers of the Deaf, but after the Milan Conference of 1880, which decreed that all instruction of Deaf be done through spoken language, Deaf teachers were terminated and forced into menial labor. Even with the increased
Open Document