An Open Letter to Melissa Harris-Perry/MSNBC

By Supporter Contributor Carol Finkle

[Editor’s Note: Carol Finkle is our newest Supporter Contributor. The following is a letter she wrote to Ms. Harris-Perry following a broadcast about the difficulties faced by Transgender inmates. I edited the letter for a general audience, and to be more within our AP style guidelines. The original can be found on our FaceBook page. –BitcoDavid]

melissa_2c copy
Melissa Harris-Perry (Photo credit: Tulane Publications)

Hello. I saw your segment about CeCe’s transgender prison experience this week and committed myself to at least trying to connect the Deaf prisoner-experience story – and people who’ve been telling it for decades – with you. If CeCe were Deaf, her story would be much worse. I have always said that the only thing harder than being Black in America is being Black and Deaf in America. I call the Deaf the last oppressed minority. They are near-totally invisible in this society and small in number. There are only two million ASL-using Deaf Americans, and most – sadly – are the children of Hearing parents. Parents often, make decisions out of ignorance and fear, when it comes to raising their Deaf babies. These children grow up misunderstood and oppressed, beyond the pale.

The young, Deaf, activist population has coined a phrase for this kind of Deaf-specific oppression – Audism: the oppression of the Deaf by the Hearing.

Mr. Conservative (School Punishes Deaf Child for Using Sign)
Mr. Conservative
(School Punishes Deaf Child for Using Sign)

I am a Hearing parent of Deaf children, now in their forties, and parents themselves. My son adopted two Deaf toddlers in the past six years and my daughter has two beautiful girls, both hearing – continuing the tradition of mixed, Deaf-Hearing families being bilingual, and bicultural. We are Deaf and Hearing (the bi-cultural part) and users of English and American Sign Language, (the bilingual part). Some of us speak, and some of us do not. This has nothing to do with having two languages or with communication itself. After all, speaking is but one mode of communication – aural, and signing is another – visual. The Deaf, if you will, call themselves the People of the Eye.

Deaf Life Magazine
Deaf Life Magazine

Would you believe, Miss Deaf America, the Deaf Olympics and so on? Yes, a separate culture woven invisibly throughout every town and city in the nation – separate, but unequal. The ADA has had some impact, but I could tell you stories from my forty years as witness to the world of my children.

Finally, watching and listening to the very deep and informative segment about CeCe and trans-gender prisoners’ experience, on Sunday, I know it is you who’d be the perfect media person/program to get this whole, huge, unknown story out there, starting with the Deaf prisoner experience. You would not be alone. There is a small army of bloggers, v-loggers and traditional journalists, struggling to bring awareness to the suffering Deaf prisoners must endure. BitcoDavid of DeafInPrison.com, a major Mother Jones Magazine expose, by James Ridgeway, and at two-part episode on Al Jazeera America last month, are but a few examples.

Below are some links that may help you gain a better understanding of the situation:

Carol Finkle is the mother of 2 Deaf Children. She has been active within the Deaf community for over 40 years. 

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