Should We Have a Funeral for the 'D-Word'?
On July 9 in Detroit, Michigan, the NAACP held a symbolic funeral for the 'N-word' complete with a pine box coffin and fake black
roses. This symbolic gesture was not just a response to the upheaval stemming from former Seinfeld star Michael Richard's
N-word diatribe during a comedy routine (for which he later apologized), or from Don Imus' "nappy-headed 'hos" fiasco. It was also
intended to put a halt to the use of this derogatory word by African Americans amongst each other -- particularly in comedy and rap.
This was a nice symbolic gesture and it got me thinking:
What about a particular 'D-word' that hardly, if ever, causes a stir in the deaf community?
Namely, is it appropriate that we've warmly referred to some of our famous deaf athletes as Dummy?
Yes, I'm talking about people such as Dummy Hoy and Dummy Taylor.
After all, isn't "Dummy" a derivative of "Deaf and Dumb?" From back in the days when deaf schools were institutions, or even asylums,
for the deaf and dumb? Are we glamorizing the days when people thought we were idiots?
I'm not sure how I feel about this because I've always mentioned Dummys Hoy and Taylor with great pride. But then I thought, what if
Jackie Robinson had been labeled "N-word Robinson?"
Robinson had lots of names -- actually, racial epithets -- tossed his way. But no matter what people called him, he remained, and always
will be, Jackie Robinson. Had some morons succeeded in labeling him anything else and had he been powerless to change it, you can
bet the NAACP would have done something to remedy the situation sooner or later.
And we accept Dummy?
Or, should we accept Dummy, but be offended when hearing
people say it?
(I can say the 'D-word', you can't... Dummy Dummy Dummy Dummy!)
Okay, okay, calm down. I know there's no comparison between calling Hoy or Taylor a "Dummy" than any derogatory name that was
barked at Robinson. The name "Dummy" was given to Hoy and Taylor (I'm assuming) out of a form of affection and respect. The names
that Robinson heard as he broke the color barrier were fueled by hate, racism, and vitriol. So this is definitely not the same thing.
(Disclaimer: I'm not saying Dummy Hoy and Dummy Taylor had it easy. I'm certain they faced their share of hardship and bigotry. It's natural law: if you're different, sooner or later you're going to encounter a bigot. I just don't think that the challenges they faced were anywhere near as monumental as the ones Robinson had to deal with.)
Nonetheless, should we be concerned about where "Dummy" comes from? A lot of people complain about the term hearing impaired
because it implies we're broken, and therefore not up to par with hearing people. Doesn't "Dummy" commit the same infraction? Are
we indirectly internalizing deaf and dumb and a deep-seated belief that we're a notch below our hearing counterparts? I certainly
Either way, "Dummy" isn't going anywhere. It's too ingrained in our history, and a lot of this history is loaded with a sense of pride and
accomplishment, semantics be damned. I just thought this would be an interesting point to bring up -- food for thought.
Nonetheless, I'm going to ask the Hall of Fame to enshrine a dear friend of ours by his real name: William Ellsworth Hoy.