Disability Action is shining the spotlight on candidates with disabilities running for public office at any level. Recently we interviewed Chris Haulmark, a Deaf candidate running for the US House of Representatives 3rd congressional district seat in Kansas.
Disability Action: Why is it important people with disabilities run for office?
Chris Haulmark: Simple answer: Politicians with non-disabled privilege are hurting rather than empowering disabled Americans.
Long answer: We, the Deaf and disabled people, are intensely aware of our own struggles as underprivileged Americans. The current status quo is that America has become a society where nearly each Deaf and disabled American is struggling for basic survival in a land of opportunity. When we Deaf and disabled Americans must continually fight against privilege and artificial obstacles imposed upon us by the privileged elite, how can we be equal? That’s not to say there are non-disabled Americans whom also lack privileges and face obstacles imposed by the privileged. These people of color, people in poverty, and the uninsured or underinsured are also experiencing the vast inequitable inequalities. Our inclusive intersectionality in face of institutional oppression is what unifies us against the institutional socioeconomic suffering. Together, we can overcome those obstacles and address this unacceptable status quo.
I believe that when we have more Deaf and disabled leaders speaking together along with other oppressed people, then America will continue to evolve into the much more thriving and more inclusive society it is meant to be. There always can be policies and practices being re-written and newly-written addressing the equalizing of these privileges as a major component. America will continue on being one of the greatest progressive countries in the world!
Disability Action: When did you decide to run for Congress?
Chris Haulmark: The decision to run is quite a personal story. As a matter of fact, friends have always encouraged me to run for a political office because they kept seeing my fighter’s passion to break through obstacles that limit other folks. When I started with the 2015 Deaf Grassroots Movement, I steered the leadership in a new direction after their successful September 9th rally in Washington, DC.
The national 50-state strategy of tearing down artificial barriers involved motivating the many Deaf grassroots communities across the country to simultaneously hold rallies nine months later in May 2016. The momentum swept the Deaf community onwards towards bigger ideas. Conversations with many fellow leaders led me to heed their encouragement and advice and throw my hat into the ring for Kansas’s Third Congressional District electoral race.
It is well known that there is a widespread voter discontent with Representative Yoder and his policies and actions, particularly regarding voter suppression obstacles. My team and I researched and developed strategies to maximize my electability and deemed it very positive for Kansas’s Third District. We formally made the announcement on June 1, 2017, running on our progressive inclusive voter’s rights platform. The voices of WE, THE PEOPLE, must be heard in Congress. In a world of alt-facts, and upside-down chaos to create better government, so it takes the irony of a Deaf person to force Congress to listen. YES! It can be done. YES! it WILL be done. YES! Together We Can Believe!
Disability Action: What makes you a good candidate?
Chris Haulmark: I am the most underprivileged candidate of Kansas’s entire Third Congressional District electoral race, as I currently seek the Democratic primary nomination. Due to my lack of privilege, I have fought my entire life against seemingly insurmountable obstacles imposed upon myself and onto others. With this strength, I will be the most fierce fighter leading America to blow apart the unequal inequitable barriers holding us back on its progressive journey. Furthermore, I strongly believe in the use and benefits of an intersectional team. With identity politics threatening to divide us, my team as well as my own intersectional identities will unify us. This is why I have a multiculturally inclusive campaign team sharing awareness and their needs: GLBTQ people, persons of color, women, mothers, millennials, and other disenfranchised society members, as well as the Deaf and disabled. I truly do believe that my voice will lead the fight for thousands if not millions to carry my message of tearing down those artificial barriers holding back our great and beautiful country!
Disability Action: Tell us about someone who inspired your run for public office?
Chris Haulmark: Thomas Gallaudet is a revered pioneer for today’s Deaf communities. I am just one of the millions of Deaf and disabled people whom have benefitted from Dr. Gallaudet’s legacy. His ultimate goal was to provide the Deaf population the opportunity for better educated and more equal lives. By founding Gallaudet University, the only university in the world specifically designed for the education of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, he opened the door for every single Deaf and Hard of Hearing American to pursue a better life through using our rich visual language- American Sign Language.
Gallaudet University is simply one of the many links in a long chain of America’s accomplishments and progress for the Deaf and disabled. There were other many accomplished Deaf and disabled leaders in the succeeding generations up to today whose efforts progressively inched towards equality, equity, and social justice for all. Dr. Gallaudet’s accomplishment does not only inspire me to run for office, I also feel I am responsibility to carry forward his legacy. Specifically, we must ensure that everyone, including us Deaf and disabled persons, has the fully accessible equitable opportunities to achieve their dreams in America’s constitutional republic.
Disability Action: What do you hope to accomplish if elected?
Chris Haulmark:: When Chris Haulmark is declared as representative of Kansas’s Third Congressional District in November 2018, every single Deaf and disabled person, who have historically been dismissed, ignored, trivialized, or talked over in disempowerment, will instantly be elevated to the table. Our voices can and will be heard on an equally empowered playing field within Congress. Congress itself will have another fighter’s voice (pun intended) being expressed and listened to in a new manner for the first time.
We, as the over 30 million Deaf and hard of hearing people of America’s 48.9 million disabled, have suffered for almost 140 years since the 1880 Milan conference. The resolution of oppression from that darkest time the world Deaf community’s history: the refusal and destruction of sign language in educational settings all across the world. It was only through America’s centuries rich history of rebellion and resistance that we, the Deaf and disabled people, continue have recognition of our civil rights and identities. Even today, we still face this major obstacle: to elevate the mandatory state-level LEAD-K sign language education taught to Deaf and disabled children to the national platform. This issue is especially important for me as a Deaf and disabled American who uses American Sign Language on a daily basis. The spotlight of a Congressional office will elevate our American Sign Language at the national leadership level. Winning the Congressional seat, introducing, and generating proactive Deaf and disability accessible legislation will make progress in addressing our institutional oppression through earning the recognition and respect we so deserve.
Chris Haulmark for Kansas and for Congress! www.haulmarkforcongress.com