Loose translation: Yes, there IS a Deaf culture. Without language, there’s no culture and vice versa.
Deaf culture has been passed on from generation to generation of Deaf people from before 1880 and in spite of the Oralism “Dark Ages” (1900-1960). Not only is the culture passed through Deaf parents, but also through Deaf mentors, friends, neighbors, etc.
Deaf culture has history passed down through storytelling, in print and on film.
Deaf culture has values: visually oriented, appreciation of a visual-manual language, importance of “critical mass” or rather “immersion” with other Deaf people, promoting the attitude of “It’s great to be Deaf, and being Deaf is natural and nothing is wrong with that”. Those values are also passed down through generations.
Indeed, it’s no question that Deaf culture is a full-fledged human culture.
Now, some of us ask does JUST being Deaf mean one knows the culture and language of Deaf people?
No. Just like an American born and raised in America but is of an ancestry such as South African, French or Filipino, is not fully encultured in their culture. They may have experiences and glimpses of the culture, but do not have a complete cultural knowledge or consciousness. To do this, they need to go and live among those who speak the language and run affairs, argue, make love, make decisions based on the history, norms and values of the culture. Yet, they may not become 100% acculturated. However, its the ATTITUDE that makes the person succeed in being warmly embraced by people of that culture. If the person is open and positive, willing to learn from the people, to take criticism and challenges, and is real…and appreciative whenever people welcome them, that would define a successful acculturation.
Just like it is with Deaf people.
Because of the current status quo system related to Deaf people (where Deaf babies are derailed from the natural acquisition of ASL and opportunities to interact in a large Deaf environment, from experiencing that being Deaf can be just natural and okay, from understanding there are differences among Deaf and hearing people, etc.), many Deaf people miss out on the complete Deaf cultural experience so they need to go through the acculturation process.
One thing we need to recognize…every Deaf person is Deaf. It doesn’t matter if they have hearing aids, cochlear implants, or hearing loss, they are still Deaf. Why? They do not interact with hearing world like hearing people do. Deaf people may succeed in making do and making it as closely as possible. Well, if they feel satisfied with their level of interactions with hearing people. That’s fine. They have that choice. There’s no need for us to feel we need to deal with that.
However, if they feel they are ready to learn what it means to be Deaf, they need to be ready inside to learn. How do they get that “attitude”? We don’t know. There are many different ways to get reach that level of readiness. Now, because there are a large number of Deaf people who are acculturating into the Deaf culture, it is expected to have some “conflicts or misunderstandings” common in “CROSS CULTURE interactions”, mostly due to different values.
The Deaf people who grew up among hearing people because they do not access English like hearing people do, they probably don’t have a complete understanding or access to the culture of the hearing people around them. Surely, they may have various levels of access and understanding of the hearing culture, but not a complete one. Writing or using interpreters only is NOT enough. They do not provide everyday cultural nuances that are solely and directly in the spoken language.
However, for the Deaf people, the culture can be HOME. You are welcome to come home or run away from home. Again, it s your choice.
I hope this helps us to unite more, understand each other more, be more open and more appreciative of our Deaf culture and be committed to pass it on for our future Deaf children.