Never Just Walking the Dog

Half-Pint’s mom had offered a casual comment about another neighbor, Deaf, who lived with her husband, daughter and four dogs in a too small apartment a few buildings away. They are planning to move in the next week. Finally.

So you know their whole story.

It seemed innocent enough. But she went on, and my comment about having studied American Sign Language for a year fell with a thud to the dog patch between us. She was telling me about a time when all four of our neighbor’s dogs came out yapping at Half-Pint, her Chocolate Lab, who outweighs the neighbor’s four in pounds and years. An experience Shadow and I have had now on two occasions. What she wasn’t saying was the same thing that wasn’t being said when our colleague, my Deaf ASL teacher’s application did not receive departmental support for tenure.

Your otherness calls mine into question. Please leave.

LandscapeOur colleague’s tenure binder provided irrefutable evidence of her competence. It included artifacts of national and local recognition, and glowing current and former student evaluations. I’d made sure to copy Human Resources and every member of her committee on my recommendation as a colleague and student. Like her binder, my reference cited her contributions to the field, commitment to excellence, and compassion as an educator. I am a better teacher because of her empathetic immersive approach to teaching and learning. It is no accident that her first-year students demonstrate more fluency and familiarity with Deaf culture and history than her colleagues’ more advanced pupils.

Like dogs, most of us yap and or attack when we feel threatened. Excellence, however, is only a threat to mediocrity. It is insufficient justification for perpetuating the institutionalized sexism, racism and ableism we ourselves endure daily.

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