May. 14, 2015

Zigzag, Linear and All Ways Inbetween

Reflecting back on academia, work and social events in my life, I realize how much I struggled to conform to linear ways of thinking--namely in written English or American Sign Language. I reflect on how much I have been interrupted by white American folks before I could fully express myself, often unrelated to clarification of words or signs. I have often had to code switch or relegate myself to the keyboard because these breaks of my being left me unable to express myself during these moments.

In order to survive, I code switched to writing in straight lines--introduction, body, then conclusion--to make it easier for white American English readers to understand me. For white Deaf signers, I sign in a diamond shape fashion-- the introductory topic/thesis, expand, then conclude. I did not realize how much I have internalized linear ways of expressing until I found myself warning other Deaf folks of color to do the same. Otherwise, those workplaces, classes, or events--predominantly white--will interrupt them repeatedly before they could fully express themselves. And this, I had to unlearn and encourage others to find their own ways of expressing themselves.

When I'm around folks who appreciate and value my unlinear way of expressing myself, I dance, glide across and twirl...a beautiful dance. A beautiful image. Sometimes, I "set the stage," "paint the picture," hooking them into suspense until a powerful or humorous finale is revealed. Other times, I "zigzag" like telling a story, going off track for background, then getting back on track. This is the Latina part of me. As a Neurodivergent, I sometimes thank my oppressors because I have an array of expressive tools not only available to me but also with those who may need alternative/ accessible ways of processing. And so I arrive, full circle...grateful for the zigzag, the linear and all ways inbetween.

© Rossana Reis, 2015