Saturday, November 3, 2012

America, We Have a Problem...

America, we have a problem.  Ok, so, to be fair, America has a lot of problems.  But never in my time of study of Deaf Culture and American Sign Language have I ever read about or seen something so terrible in CURRENT oppressive forces, particularly in the media. 

More often than not, Oppression is subtle.  Stigmatizations sneak up on people, most of the time they may not fully understand what message they are sending, when they send it - this is not the case with Chelsea Handler.  

I saw on Dale H Boam's Facebook status (he's a UVU ASL Professor, and a Lawyer) how TV Personality, Chelsea Handler had made mockery of Lydia Callis - and the Language (innately connected to the Culture) of the Deaf Community.  This was orginally posted on Nov 2, 2012 around 8:00 am. 
Re: Chelsea Handler.

I was recently shown a clip from Chelsea Lately where she makes fun of American Sign Language. Specifically she lampoons Mayor Bloomberg's ASL interpreter. As an attorney who represents persons who are Deaf I was highly offended at this unfunny an offensive portrayal of a skilled interpreter using the appropriate linguistic markers as being somehow amusing.

Historically the Deaf community as an oppressed minority have suffered for their language and lack of access. I have represented persons who have lost family members because doctors refused to provide sign language interpreters, persons who have been abused by the police for failing to follow orders when no interpreter was present and the police knew my clients could not hear. I have represented students who have been excluded from classrooms because the school felt their language was too distracting.

During a time of great emergency I was thrilled to see the Mayor mindful of persons who are Deaf; persons who are at greater risk by reason of the linguistic barrier they face.

As stated, the interpreter was using proper linguistic markers and frankly did a fantastic job. Just because Chelsea Handler is so culturally unsophisticated that she laughs at the funny Deaf talk, it does not mean that rest of the world needs to share in her cultural insensitivity and generalized stupidity. Chelsea joins the ranks of Michael Richards and other so called comics who to drag their audience into degrading others to hide the fact that they actually don't have anything funny to say.

Shame on her and shame on E!

Dale H Boam
I tried my best search engine skills to find the original video.  For obvious reasons, the "owner" has taken it down. --> Cowards. 

You guys, this isn't just about one person making light of another person's language or accent.  This is a perpetuation of arrogance and ignorance for the treasure that the Deaf Community is.  The vast majority (yes, I am referring to hearing people - and yes I know I am a part of the majority)  doesn't know or appreciate what the Deaf Community has to offer, and I will admit right here and right now that I still don't fully comprehend the amazingness of the Deaf Community and American Sign Language. 

In the comments on Dale's Facebook, I read about how some people may think that this uproar (true-business, there is an uproar) is unnecessary, due to the fact that Handler is bringing more attention to sign language, and such an overt response is a result of over-reaction.  His replies were as such:
If no one complains when it is not funny, or no one tries to educate when they see ignorance... Nothing changes.
 And this, regarding the idea of spoof/satire: 
A spoof or a satire require an understanding of the subject matter and an exaggeration of a humorous aspect thereof. Chelsea was not spoofing the humor of interpreting (that was done very well on an episode of spin city) she was ridiculing how stupid she thought sign language looks without understanding the implications thereof.
 Laurie Robbins Shaffer had this to add to Dale's insights:
I find the skits very offensive to the language of ASL, to Deaf people and to the profession of interpreting. Oppression in the form of humor is still oppression.
Oh, and this just in, it isn't just Handler who is making light of Callis' Interpreting and ASL as a whole, apparently Saturday Night Live just did something as well.  More on that later... 

Deaf Echo 
Deaf Network of Texas

Also, there are tons of video responses to this topic regarding Chelsey Handler and Lydia Callis on YouTube, feel free to search it up. 

So, raise of hands, who's coming to the Oppression Conference at UVU now?  Come learn more about what Oppression really is and how we, as decent human beings, can break through the barriers put up by ugly arrogance and judgment, and engage to bring change to the stigmatizing and oppressive perspectives & treatment of minorities.

That's all I've got for now, peeps. 


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