Editor’s Note: This is not an all comprehensive summary of the vlog, we recommend you to watch this vlog on your own. Deaf Vee Journal has included some key points that were brought up during the vlog that we felt resonated with the article.
Community members have reacted negatively to the Black Lives Matter flag being flown over PSDs campus. Kevin Mundey made a vlog to respond to complaints. In this video, it is emphasized that there is an importance of working together because Mundey states “I believe that racism kills.” There is a high percentage of BIPOC and specifically black students at PSD. Deaf Vee Journal’s article, “ Mixed Reactions: PSD’s BLM Flag Photo” shares the specific statistics of PSD. There are some concerns that racism could possibly become the death of Pennsylvania School for the Deaf which is celebrating their 200th year anniversary. “I could contact the city, news reporters, and high-powered people but I choose not to because we are the community. We need to work together and wake up!” he says.
Mundey also emphasizes that he doesn’t understand why the Deaf community is not willing to move with the times. “More and more hearing companies are supporting BLM and we are fighting against white deaf people. When we fight for deaf rights, we get full support but when we fight for Black deaf rights, we get resistance!” (Mundey) He also addressed some of the comments that people have made about not feeling like the school should show such “support” for movements by reminding the community that the government does show support for varying marginalized communities including the LGBTQ+ community by flying their flags.
Because the Deaf community is so resistant to the idea of supporting Black Deaf community members, perhaps it’s time for the community to stop supporting deaf owned businesses? “I’ve long ignored the race aspect and supported Deaf run businesses, specifically deaf owned and here you are challenging race. This maybe means we shouldn’t support Deaf businesses anymore?” (Mundey)
Again, we need to ask ourselves if we want to be on level with the hearing community? If we do, “ we need to include Black Deaf people and work together to beat the system and then we can be! Black Deaf community faces all barriers. We are facing the same barriers and for you to dismiss their barriers, is to refuse to accept that you are just as oppressed. If you elevate them, you can elevate our community. “ (Mundey)
What do Deaf community leaders need to be doing?
“You should be applauding the school. Perhaps we should be including other diverse flags later? Add our deaf flag, etc. But truthfully, if you’re going to fight us having the BLM flag up, perhaps we should just take all the flags down? Now, how would the Philadelphia community react to that?” (Mundey)
Moving PSD hurt
Pennsylvania School for the Deaf was founded in 1820 and since then has moved campuses multiple times, however, the one move that hurt PSD the most was impacted by the railroads moving closer to the school for the Deaf. PSD almost shut down in 1984 and that time, there were huge repercussions and agents of change. Mostly racially motivated; now, when Mundey addresses these with administrators, he hears the same thing every time. “List of excuses but ignores racism”. Nobody at PSD is willing to admit to the truth, and he says that he knows the truth. His mother, a Black hearing interpreter, told him the truth from the start. “It is racism that destroyed PSD”.
When they moved to a new campus, many Deaf of Deaf (DoD) families moved their children to Maryland School for the Deaf and other schools. They were never willing to admit the reasons why they moved their child but when those families retreated to other states, they hurt the Philadelphia Deaf community because they caused a division between the “old campus and the new campus”. Mundey says that it is painfully clear who went to the old campus and who went to the new campus. He is one of those students that went to the old and new campus and has long seen how the removal of DoD children hurt the development and growth of his classmates. “When all my classmates that were DoD left, I saw the enrichment of language dwindle. We were limited to only Deaf of Hearing (DoH) it became a struggle.” (Mundey) He reminds people that his mother and family members signed so he didn’t suffer as much as those whose parents did not have the ability to provide a language rich environment at home. As a result of their parents not signing, they suffered, it didn’t matter which skin color they were; the consequences were the same.
Because of this division, there is a huge generational gap. He also emphasizes that, “The Philadelphia deaf community is the most racially segregated deaf community in the US. This is because of the old school being closed and moved. “New PSD” and “Old PSD” don’t work together.” (Mundey) Ironically, this wasn’t the only move that the school faced but it seems to have done the most damage to the unity of the Philadelphia community because it seems as if the alumni of the school don’t accept that the most important thing is that the school is still present. This points to racism.
When DoD moved their children to the other schools, they demonstrated a clear form of oppression by being racist. Not to say this was an overt move, but more of covert racism because they would blame the change rather than the actual fact, that they didn’t want to be closer to those BIPOC individuals (mostly black) that were working on the railroads. “Yes, we all hurt over the changes at PSD, especially the loss of the old campus, however the point still remains.. PSD is PSD.” (Mundey)
Future of PSD
Mundey admitted that during his time as a student he would complain about PSD all the time. When he experienced racism, “What the hell”, Mundey thought to himself, ”I’m a Black Deaf person!” After that, he put his time, energy and soul into supporting PSD. “I am so thankful I have been doing that” He says with Peter Bailey in charge, he believes strongly that PSD has a good chance at becoming an excellent school and will be able to be brought back to its glory. However, with the responses that have been floating around on Facebook about the flag, he is mortified.
“We just got CESAD accreditation. I was thrilled and I believed that we would become one of the top five schools!! But now I’m seeing this “Black Lives Matter flag” anger come forward from our community.” (Mundey)
The reason why he believes that PSD can become one of the top five best schools for the Deaf in the country is because he looks at Riverside as a shining example of how BIPOC students can have a great education and how it leads to greatness. He emphasizes that the community needs to stop worrying about skin color and start focusing on the larger picture, Deaf identity. Yes, their skin color is important and is a key player in how they’re perceived in society however, if we work together and elevate Black Deaf children and give them the tools and resources to be successful through education, they can become some of the greatest Deaf community leaders which can lead to positive change. “Humans are strange. We fight for BIPOC black students and I promise deaf families will work together to help PSD be a successful school again. That is truly what I believe in my heart. We will thrive again but we can’t without your support.” (Mundey)
That is only if parents are comfortable sending their children to PSD. “imagine hearing families considering PSD. Now, look at the website! I don’t want to send my child to a school where children are put on the chopping block! Parents will tell each other that this is not worth it and the school has no support for their students.” (Mundey)
Pennsylvania School for the Deaf is a history rich school with a 200 year history “Do we want to work together to push for a great 200 year celebration or do we want to destroy 200 years of history?! We need to work towards remembering our history.” (Mundey)
White Deaf Leaders Misconception
The whole reason this vlog was created is because of how White Deaf leaders within the Philadelphia Deaf community have reacted to something that both Kevin and Darrin emphasize is a small step in becoming a progressive school. “I’ve looked up to the individual that I saw feeding anger and racist. She is not a deaf leader! I thought she was a strong woman. She’s from a deaf family. Yes I know that her son went to Maryland School for the Deaf but still.” (Mundey) And the consequences of these actions can be extremely dire because students that see these comments will be very hurt because they believe these leaders are just like them. “I hope students don’t watch your vlogs or see your comments because they have this idea that Deaf Leaders are just like them” (Mundey)
With how the White Deaf leaders have been responding, it becomes even more clear that there is a huge amount of intersectionality within the Deaf community. “When we discuss “Black” it becomes such an uncomfortable discussion. Especially in the PSD community!! For many years I’ve been proud Philly native but now I”m seeing this!” (Mundey)
Now with these Deaf leaders, they don’t seem to understand that BLM is not something that is solely affecting the hearing community but us as well. It is something that has a huge emphasis on what’s happening in the Black hearing community, yes for George Floyd was hearing and many of the other victims that have been used as a driving factor of the “Black Lives Matter” movement are hearing however this is not a predominately hearing movement. It is a BLACK movement. Now, there are many Black Deaf young adults and Black Deaf people in our community that are seeing these comments by White Deaf leaders who seem to miss the entire point of something that we could be elevating as a community. “Ask them to include ASL, that’s not racist! But to ask the school to remove a flag because you don’t like it is racist.” (Mundey)
Mundey blames the system, yes but he primarily blames Deaf of Deaf for our systematic oppression, especially in Philadelphia. “in the 80s the Deaf families ran out of Philadelphia. I remember when we all played together and when we had a new school, I didn’t understand what was happening. When we moved, all of my classmates that we’re from deaf families left.” (Mundey)
Many individuals within the community have clear cut oppressive behaviors that are harmful to the Black Deaf community, especially children that are still learning and developing as individuals. Kevin talks about how much doubt he has had in himself for so long because of the oppression he has gotten from these deaf adults. “Deaf adults have no problem telling me, as a black person that I can’t write. However I’ve had multiple hearing adults encourage me to write and tell me I can do it.” (Mundey)
It’s become clear that these same Deaf adults believe that Black Deaf people are below them. “You make me feel like you believe I’m below you. Your protest against the BLM flag is damaging” Now how can White Deaf leaders learn more about something they don’t understand without damaging the future of the school? “Maybe he (Peter Bailey) could have a BIPOC individual explain all of this to everybody. Racism trumps Audism. The Black Deaf community is involved in BLM! Not just hearing people. Black people who are involved in BLM are also Deaf too! Where is your support for Deaf?? Black Deaf people are even more oppressed and I’m unable to tell Hearing people that the Deaf community is better!” (Mundey)
Big D or Little d
These Deaf families refuse to support children that are raised oral, those that receive cochlear implants, those that are BIPOC, those that do not have the “crystal clear identity of a Deaf person” and it is not something that is their fault, but the Deaf community has long gotten upset and fought against the concept of losing the community because of these things however it is our own damn fault that the community is losing members, schools are closing, and kids are not being exposed to their culture or identity. “If you provide support for deaf children with implants. You will allow them to maintain their deaf identity for all. I do not believe in the ‘big D’ until you have worked on providing support for all.” (Mundey)
The Deaf community’s premiere civil rights organization which is supposed to be “on level” with NAACP is called National Association of the Deaf (NAD). “NAACP fights for black rights and they are fantastic! NAD… There’s something off about them. They seem to be “superior” and they need to stop that.” (Mundey) NAD has a long rich history and is not some newbie organization with rookie individuals at the helm. Howard Rosenbaum has been the CEO of NAD since 2010 and many people struggle with NAD’s level of clout in the hearing community. Mundey wants to see NAD working with NAACP to provide more support for the Black Deaf community. “Even Deaf Blind (white) people have more resources and support than we do.” (Mundey) The fact that our Deaf community has such a huge issue with race makes Mundey uncomfortable and worried. “ I’m seeing so many people fighting the idea of racism. People are so worried about their deaf community more than the racism issues that there are! Come on, Lives can’t be replaced!! Stop worrying about things, money, please focus on the recognition of issues! Over the past few days. I’ve been fighting myself as in, “I don’t understand!” BLM is a huge issue and fights for ALL of us! BLM could help elevate education, health care and support for other disabilities! People are screaming for jobs!” (Mundey)
“The unification of the Deaf community is so important because look at what could be happening. We can lose our school if the state of Pennsylvania looks at what’s happening and sees some of the comments that have been made, not only by community members but people involved in the school board! You want to be proud of your Deaf identity.. INCLUDE EVERYBODY! The deaf community is already so small and you have been dismissive of so many people because they’re not who you are, white deaf of deaf families.” (Mundey) The Black Deaf community needs your help as leaders to fix this. Reunify and work together to provide support for PSD and the future of the students at this school. “We have to back up, think, and preserve deaf schools! If we get this out in public, in the mainstream media! We could be in so much trouble!” (Mundey)
Mundey wants to ask people something worth thinking about: Do we want to defeat the system of all forms of oppression? Hmm or is this about wanting Deaf people to prevail? If people are focused on “Deaf” rather than including “Black Deaf” or “BIPOC Deaf” then that means only White Straight Deaf Man. If this was the case then the community would automatically be dismissive of White Straight Deaf Women. Does this make any sense to the community? Well it’s because this is a male dominated system. If we want to beat the system, we have to include everybody. “Stop being so dismissive!” (Mundey)
Families that are looking into schools, PSD could be losing the chance to welcome these parents and their students because they could be looking at Facebook and what news mainly is shown on there. If they saw what the PSD leadership community was doing let alone how they were talking about the flag, they would be mortified and decide not to send their children to the school. “This could dwindle our numbers and hurt us in the long run! Please think twice before you post stuff that you are posting.” (Mundey) There was a suggestion that if people have concerns or do not understand things that have been done by the school, to please contact Peter Bailey and talk to him about it.
“Please ask the Black Deaf community what they’ve been doing! The BLM flag is a result of our work! This means we are not wrong! We have become a “Pah!” moment. Just sit back and relax! Watch and learn. You can add, can you ask the BLM to include ASL!” (Mundey)
When you ask for people to take down something that represents another community, that is racist. But when you ask for them to include your language to be presented within a larger movement, that is NOT racist! This is not the time to be talking about Audism! Focus on BLM and work together as a community to be more progressive and beat the system.
We can see quality of life improve. If the White Deaf community ignores the Black Deaf community, Mundey is worried that we could be the very last minority and disability community to get support. “I can’t any longer say that I feel like my cultures are similar (Black and Deaf) but now I no longer feel this way because of racism.” (Mundey) These PSD students are our tomorrow leaders so the community needs to step back and think about how these topics are being approached. How can the community do this? Mundey gives you the answer, “Your thinking needs to change from negative to positive! Have new thinking, how can we support Black Deaf plus other Deaf students to become bigger and fight for the same goals. The black community has their own goals and we don’t want to see the Deaf community dismiss the black community.” (Mundey) The hearing community dismisses the Deaf community and yet the White Deaf community continues to be a party of dismissing the Black Deaf community.
How to Fix the Damage
Pennsylvania School for the Deaf has a chance at becoming a better school and providing excellence in education however, this can’t happen without the community. This means going back to change some of the comments that were posted on their website. “We can show the philadelphia community that our students are in a safe environment.” Mundey said in a conversation with Darrin Ryan Smith, a guest in the video. In their conversation they discussed some very important points about when a school does baby steps, the community is watching.
Parents of Black Deaf children are looking for a safe place for their children to get a good education and Pennsylvania School for the Deaf (PSD) has the chance to be involved in that progressive movement by moving forward. “Include Black Deaf children, start now.” As community members, it’s necessary to do the removal or retraction of your comments so parents see a more unified front among parents, teachers, alumni, and faculty in providing a good place for their children. We want the philadelphia community to see that, “ alumni and community members believe in being united and understanding better of what we don’t understand. Damage control is necessary.. let’s work together and work towards fixing this.” (Mundey)
The level of progressiveness is critical along with the knowledge and willingness to learn and create a safe environment for the BIPOC community to learn about their own history. The truth, not lies created by straight white men. Darrin pointed out that it’s necessary for the school to take these steps on their own and not be forced by the state to make these decisions. “We want to be more progressive and knowledgeable. We can’t stay in our bubble! Language deprivation contributes to Racism. We need to be fighting for ALL Deaf children which will benefit the Black Deaf community and fight language deprivation. I’m just thinking to myself wow, I don’t know if I’m going off track here. Wow but I’m thinking about oppression others such as women, disabled,” (Mundey)
Now is not the time to be rallying against a huge movement, A movement that could benefit the community at large. “The time is now. We need to work together and prove the system wrong! Please remember that the 200 year celebration is coming soon. Now is NOT the time for you to fight against the oppression of Black Lives. If you see oppression of others, it is a reflection of what we are facing.” Mundey also wants people to take the time to reassess, re-learn and rebuild everything! Repeat these things until your mind is able to embrace the idea of making PSD a better place for students regardless of race.