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Bond Exhorts Gallaudet Crowd to Push for Change

Barrington M. Salmon | 2/27/2013, 10:31 a.m.

"Movements forced elites to inaugurate reforms that would otherwise have been ignored," he said. "... Movements usually begin with a concrete precipitating event. For the civil rights movement, it was the arrest of Rosa Parks. The resignation of [former Gallaudet president] Jerry Lee could be seen as an important element."

All good movements, Bond explained, must continue to agitate, sustain morale, foster fellowship and develop tactics. Movements must also have catalytic leadership "who join the adventure without a foreseeable end," and also must have a strategy, plan and tactics to confront its oppressors.

"You have to hope and expect the movement to succeed and for it to effect change and provide relief from the injustices a group faces," he said.

The civil rights movement had within it all these elements and more, said Bond, as he and others on the frontlines battled a tripartite system of oppression - economic, political, and personal.

"It was state supported private terror and ritual human sacrifice carried out by the state and citizens," Bond said of the lynchings, beatings and brutality visited daily on African Americans and those who challenged segregation, racism and discrimination. "... No other ethnic group - except Native Americans - has experienced a comparable mix of xenophobic attitudinal and structural limitations and dictatorial constraints on their development. It is absolutely without parallel in the American experience."

Bond said people tend to look at racism in terms of individual behavior and actions but it's actually a complex set of societal attitudes and actions. He explained that there are two kinds of racist behavior, active and passive, and whether white people do it consciously or unconsciously, they all benefit materially and psychologically.

"For all their years in the United States, black people have struggled to find answers to a series of questions: how do we explain the position of blacks in society; who or what is the enemy and who are our friends; with whom can we join in coalition? What is the nature of whites? Are they naturally hostile to blacks? And is it impossible for them to abandon the benefits they receive from racism?" he asked.

"Unlike Polish Americans or Germans, Italian and Irish Americans - all of whom became colorful ethnic variations on the central All-American theme - African Americans remain the indigestible alternative. Unlike all the others, they refused to agree to white supremacy. And unlike all the others, black ethnic mobilization has been often characterized and demeaned as identity politics, somehow democratically illegitimate; while white variants like puritanism, the confederacy, the Ku Klux Klan, the Moral Majority, the Tea Party and others are simply ordinary expressions of democratic activism."

Gallaudet's president, T. Alan Hurwitz said he was surprise at the many parallels Bond made with the civil rights movement and the deaf and hard-of-hearing community.

"I have to say I'm amazed at how many similarities he spoke of," Hurwitz said through an interpreter. "There are so many issues and challenges that we face. He talked about all people coming together. People came together 25 years ago and got what we sought to achieve."

Liletha Davison agreed.

"One of the challenges we face at Gallaudet is getting together and getting the staff to recognize and respect each other," said Davison, a staff program coordinator. "I'm trying to find some tools to make this happen. Did I hear what I wanted to hear? Yeah. He said push, push, push. I wanted an easy answer though."