I mean, Hearing people are the ones who hire us, right? Hearing people need us to interpret for them because they are not fluent in sign language, and most of the time, Hearing people foot the bill. So why do we so often side with our Deaf consumers? We signed-spoken language interpreters probably all have our “Stupid Hearing People!” stories, but where would we be without them? (And remember, for the majority of us who are not CODAs, we used to be Stupid Hearing People ourselves.) Hearing people may be naïve about signed language, deafness, and Deaf culture, but most of them mean well. Hearing people who hire spoken-signed language interpreters want what we want: to make communication accessible so that Deaf and Hearing people can understand each other. They deserve our respect and compassion, not our condescension and contempt. I used to not understand why some hearing consumers made such a production of introducing the interpreters they hired. I thought it was paternalistic and patronizing to Deaf people to make such a show of “their wonderful interpreters.” Then I realized that Hearing people who hire us spend a lot of money for a reason– to prove a commitment to accessibility, build an audience, or develop business relationships. You know what? They pay for the right to use us as advertisement just as much as a company that buys a stadium or arena pays for the right to slap their name on it. Yes, it can be argued that they “have to” provide for accessibility by law, but think about when they don’t have to do this, but they do it anyway. Think about when a company of Hearing people visits a company of Deaf people to pitch a business deal or make a presentation touting the advantages of working with their organization. They didn’t have to visit the company or make the presentation; they chose to. Likewise, they chose to hire interpreters which, if you think about the cost, is not an easy choice to make. So I say if they make a display of graciousness, be gracious and don’t resent them for it. If they talk slowly and clearly, don’t interpret their actions as talking down to Deaf people– try to see them as caring people who are working very hard to do the right thing and be accommodating. I say all this because I have seen the negativity signed-spoken language interpreters display on their faces and with their body language, and in their conversations with other interpreters. And, mea culpa, I have been guilty of it myself. But I am growing and changing! I really encourage my colleagues in the field to put themselves in Hearing people’s shoes and see the world through their eyes. They are worthy of the same support and respect we give our Deaf consumers.
Tonight, after posting the participant’s review of my workshop this morning, I see that there are no comments on the blog post and no “Likes” or comments on the Facebook post. My first thought is “people thought it was obnoxious.” Self-promotion can be a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t proposition. You want to win people over, but you risk turning them off in the process. I don’t know if I ever strike the right balance when it comes to talking about my accomplishments or promoting my work. Lately, I fear that some of my status updates have been boldface brags; e.g., “New blog post: Rave Review for my Vague Language Workshop http://bit.ly/zWrno” (tweet), “I’m happy that 24 people came to my workshop in Phoenix, five of them all the way from Yuma and four of them all the way from Tucson.” (tweet), and “New blog post: Speak & Spell II a Successful Workshop http://bit.ly/171bC9″ (tweet), especially the fact that I shared my teacher evaluation scores. Ugh.
What may or may not be apparent is that I have felt shame and failure in my life, and there have been a few times I doubted I’d ever achieve anything. When I do manage to do something good, my feelings of past failure and inefficacy drive me to shout my achievements from the rooftops. “See! I’m not a complete failure! I DID something!”
Perhaps it is the fact that there have been so many times in my life when I have felt paralyzed into inaction. I’ve wanted to do many things that I didn’t do because I didn’t believe in myself. Now, when I finally do things that I’ve only been dreaming of doing for years, I feel… well… vindicated! Especially when other people didn’t believe in me, either. It’s like, “How do you like me now?!” Well, maybe not very much, I fear.
What good does it do to shove my success in the faces of people who doubted me? Are they really going to “like me now”? Or are they just going to resent me for rubbing it in their faces that I succeeded in spite of them? My fear is that they are going to resent me as much as I resent them. Resentment begets resentment. The thing to do is forgive everyone for everything, starting with myself.
I was hoping that my colleague A Dreamer (yes, that’s his name) would be televised as he interpreted the National Anthem into ASL at the beginning of the big game. Unfortunately, this year’s coverage of the signing of the Star Spangled Banner was even less satisfying than last year’s. Last year, we at least got to watch Marlee Matlin signing “bombs bursting in air” on the big screen. This year, I was only able to see — by watching very carefully — the interpreter signing “flag was still there” (all in one nicely inflected ASL sign, by the way) on the Jumbo Tron behind Jordin Sparks’ head.
And what about that Deaf Pepsi ad that was supposed to air? I never saw it. Did you?