When I first posted about “church sign” way back in 2011 , I knew I would see it again and again. But still, I was not prepared for the discussions I witnessed, and took part in on Facebook last week.
On morning talk show programme Smile Jamaica‘s Facebook page, the following video was posted:
After that, in the very public domain of this video’s comment section (see the globe icon to the bottom left of the video?), a some Deaf people posted the following:
Some (clearly hearing people) disagreed with these Deaf people:
In mentioning that the gloves are distracting, Ms Morant is possibly referring to my own posting of the video on of my other pages:
Honestly, if I were Deaf, I would be very upset and offended by the comments of these hearing people. I know some Japanese, but if I were to write a Japanese song or poem, and then react like this to a Japanese person telling me that I am wrong, then that would be an insult of the highest degree.
Ms Morant commented on my post, and we had the following discussion:
Disrespecting the church is not my aim. I simply wish for this kind of offensive action against the Deaf community stop. It is not only churches that do this. Hearing people of all walks of life spend a couple weeks learning “sign language” to perform at graduations, concerts, and other such events; hearing people that, sadly, could not hold a decent conversation with a Deaf person if they met one. Without properly understanding the language and culture of the Deaf, these kinds of performances will always be disasters.
The point is: Deaf people have a long history of being oppressed and discriminated against because of their language. In oralist schools, they were forced not to sign, and punished if they did. (And that’s not even half of the story!) So, to have hearing people claim the natural language of the Deaf, use it in their ministries and performances, and declare how right they (the hearing people) are in their use of the language when Deaf people say they don’t understand…
One must wonder: Who are these hearing people doing it for? Clearly it’s for themselves, and other hearing people.
In my humble opinion, the “blessing” of “souls” should not be done at the expense of offending an entire culture. There are so many other forms a ministry can take, a performance can take. Why can’t we hearing people pay attention to the Deaf?
Interpreting a song into sign language is fine. Both hearing interpreters and Deaf people do it all the time, and some of these have gone viral. But please, respect and honour the fact that JSL is a language, with grammar and a culture tied to it.
I don’t think that’s too much to ask.
*Put simply, “audism” is to hearing a ability as racism as to race, and sexism is to sex/gender. The word was invented by a Deaf man named Tom L. Humphries in his doctoral dissertation in 1975. (“Audism“, ASL University)