Let me show you a scenario. A girl is talking with an acquaintance or loose friend. They are walking, and the topic of the deaf is raised.
“Yeah, my parents are deaf.”
“Wow! Really? That’s so cool! So, do you like, know Sign Language?”
“Yep, it’s not a big deal.”
“Cool! Can you sign something to me?”
I am tired of people who think that learning sign language would be cool. I am tired of people who use sign language to showcase themselves. I am tired of people who don’t want to learn sign language for the right reasons.
Today has been Let-Me-Show-You-How-Cool/Unique-I-Am-Because-I-Know-Sign-Language Day. Honestly, you would not believe how much Sign Language was thrown in my face. It was in a song at my district’s middle school play. It was in a cartoon commercial between a son and mother – when neither are deaf.
And it was in a video at our school Veteran’s Day program. A bunch of students got asked to say thank you to the Veterans in Sign Language. What really bugged me is that it wasn’t even done correctly. Instead, they had the students start with their hands on their heart and then move outward, when the sign actually starts from the chin. However, I did realize it might be specifically for the Veterans…so, I looked it up and found:
“He thought of the sign language sign for ‘Thank You,’ which starts at the chin, but was afraid it might be misconstrued by someone unfamiliar with its meaning as a sign-language sign. Starting with your hand over your heart, as if you’re about to say the Pledge of Allegiance, should make it easier to understand that the message is from the heart, even if the person doesn’t know exactly what the sign means.”
I’m angry. And yes, I know what you’re thinking: “What’s the big deal?”
My response: What is the point in warping Sign Language to make a unique message for Veterans?
How is this even okay? Sign Language was a language made for those who can’t hear, and therefore cannot speak as clearly as the hearing (which hinders the communication process). Sign Language was not made for Veterans who don’t know Sign Language.
So why is it okay to warp the language that the deaf use to communicate? Doing this completely undermines the seriousness of the language and ruins its purpose. It drives me crazy that the majority of the hearing population believes this to be acceptable!
But then again, those are the same people who are only learning Sign Language because they think it’s cool – that it makes them unique.
You know who you are. You are the ones who say, “Wow, that’s so cool!” when you hear I have deaf parents. You are the ones who ask me to sign to you just so you can goggle at me like I’m some animal in a zoo.
You are not the ones who want to learn it to speak to that deaf aunt/cousin/uncle you always brag about having. You are not the ones who want to learn it to help the deaf integrate more with the hearing community.
And…I don’t hate you personally. I just hate how you respond. Partially, it’s my fault. I never told you off or made you think about your reaction. But that’s what this post is. I am telling you now. I don’t like the way you react.
PS. I should let everyone know that I have no negative thoughts or feelings to the Veterans. They should obviously be thanked and celebrated for because of how hard they’ve worked and what they’ve gone through for all Americans. However, I just don’t agree with the use of Sign Language to thank them. Unless, of course, there is a signing deaf Veteran in the auditorium. In that case, thank you for acknowledging the need to properly communicate with him or her.