Sunday, March 28, 2010
Listening to the deaf
It does not surprise me at all that for decades nobody -- priests, cops, prosecutors -- would listen to, let alone believe, those 200 boys and men who repeatedly charged that they had been molested by the Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy at a school for the deaf in Wisconsin.
For millennia the deaf were not considered fully functioning human beings. Society thought they had nothing of importance to say. They had no credibility. Not even the people charged with their care and education took them seriously.
Black Americans once faced this dynamic. They were considered unworthy of the vote. But things changed, and now one of them is president of the United States.
Things are slowly changing for deaf people, too, as they shoulder aside prejudice and ignorance to become doctors and lawyers and journalists.
It's still an uphill battle. Individuals increasingly are accepting the human potential of the deaf, but it will take longer to overcome the inertia of society and its institutions.
Those Wisconsin lads have at last burst through the smothering, arrogant and ossified hierarchy of their church. People are now listening to them. It is a small breakthrough for all of us.