Currently this semester not only am I taking a Sociology course, but I’m taking American Sign Lang II, which is also known as ASL. In a way both these courses are some what connected. In my Intro to Sociology class (taken this past fall) we talked about how the majority of society becomes when there are people that deviate from the norm. When a person(s) are not familiar with another person(s) lifestyle, illness, disability, and/or way of thinking, society in general could react in fear.
So as we were talking about this topic in Sociology, it got me thinking about a project that I had done last spring for ASL. My professor wanted us to each go out in public and not talk for four hours straight. That’s right NOT TALK in public for four hours!! I remember having a little anxiety over the project (deviating from the norm). I didn’t know how people would react and I thought honestly it was weird too pretend I couldn’t hear. Anyway, I sucked it up and did it. The results…unbelievable!
Upon arriving at the mall, the first store I went into was Bath, and Body Works. A woman greeted me as I came in, while I was browsing for products. Of course I pretended I couldn’t here her, and ignored her. After 30 seconds I looked up at her, and she then re-greeted me, I just smiled and waved. After a few minutes of looking around I saw a co-co nut scrub and was wondering if they had this scrub in another scent I liked. I took the scrub, and another scent and approached the woman who greeted me, as well as the other sales associate. As I was approaching the woman who greeted me she was backing away from me with distain on her face. This made me feel uncomfortable. Therefore, I looked at the other sales associate, and pointed to the scrub, and pointed to the other scent. She was actually very nice and said they didn’t have the scrub in the scent, I was looking for. Thankfully, she rang me out with a smile on her face.
Corinne (our fellow bostonite) arrived an hour later at the mall, and met me at PF Changs. (She knew my assignment involved no talking). We go inside the restaurant, and grab a table. I signed to Corinne the whole time throughout our lunch. People were staring at me, and making comments such as “She is deaf, she has to sign.” Corinne said she saw many people staring at us. Our waitress, even acknowledge her more, than me. During that time I was feeling like “Hey!! I’m a human being and an adult.” I was able after all able to point to things on the menu I wanted.
We went to a couple more stores. There was a sales associate at a MAC store who was so snobby, un-helpful, and was snickering about me being “deaf” to another sales associate. After that we go to a nail salon where a woman asked Corinne while laughing if she could understand me.
Overall, I was perceived with more of a negative reaction, I feel as though I was judged for something people can’t really control (which is being deaf). I didn’t think people would be so judgmental, or have the reactions some people did. I thought society would have been more empathetic, and understanding in this day in age when we are talking about using sign language. All this told me is that we are not as far ahead in having empathy and understanding as I had thought. This experience was a real eye opener. People may have been more curious, and some just scared of the unknown. People’s reactions did irritate me, which at time I was furious. After a couple of hours into my character I wasn’t bothered as much because I got use to it.
I’m glad that I was able to do this project. This was a valuable experience that I had and wanted to share. There is that saying a long the lines that a person can’t understand another person unless they are wearing their shoes. I don’t know, nor will I ever know what it feels to be deaf and the struggles a deaf person has to overcome. I did feel though like I got a taste of what it is like to be treated. I also think as a society we should try and not be so judgmental. Every notice your reaction when you see someone “deviating from the norm”? It’s amazing though, the more classes I take I can start to see them intertwine with one another.