Posts tagged ‘racism’

The Color Line Problem Lives On at California School for the Deaf

Two months ago, the Bear Hunt Statue (BHS) was a symbol of 19th century racism. There were multiple layers of racism within and surrounding the Bear Hunt Statue. Today, because of Superintendent Sean Virnig’s decision to leave the statue as is without remedy, the statue has now been transformed into a symbol of 21st century racism.  Virnig’s treatment of race, racism, and the dialogue surrounding the statue has added another layer of racism to the multiple layers of oppression already inherent in the statue.


Comment from Literary Agent Alison Fargis

  • Pardon my grammar errors here. I wrote in a hurry. Below is Alison Fargis’ response and my response to her.
    Alison Fargis · Vassar

    There are many books published that are basically lexicons of dirty words in other languages including Spanish, French, Korean, Italian, and, yes, even an existing title called DIRTY SIGN LANGUAGE, and none of them degrade the languages or cultures they include.
    Reply · Like · 15 minutes ago
  • Octavian · Works at Currently Unemployed

    And your point is, Alison? Those books are at least accurate. This is not. And we also have to examine who the authors/creators are and what they understand about the language and the cultural politics that surrounds the language. You are clearly not paying attention to the issues being raised. This is NOT about dirty language. This is about cultural appropriation, sexism/misogyny/racism, and a boatload of issues that others have gone to great lengths to explain. If you’re going to defend this, especially as the literary agent involved, it would be wise to take the time to read through all of this and undertake some education about what African-Americans, Native Americans, and other minority groups have said regarding cultural appropriation. This is mockery and exploitation.
    Reply · Like · 2 seconds ago
  • Octavian · Works at Currently Unemployed

    Alison Fargis Furthermore, your response shows that you know absolutely nothing about sign language, deaf people, or cultural issues. It is irresponsible, as an literary agent, to try to peddle a work without being at minimum aware of the potential fallout. Would you try to peddle a book written by a white man mocking black women and making caricatures out of black women? There’s a reason why that’s no longer acceptable- because African Americans and their allies have spent the last century or so fighting racism and we all know racism is not cool, not acceptable, and basically political suicide. At least when it’s overt. You know what this is called, Alison? AUDISM. ABLEISM. And one day, we will all realize it’s equally uncool, unacceptable, and political suicide. Especially when it’s as overt as this book/Henson is being. But because disabled people and deaf people’s struggles are more recent and because scholars have not given much thought to disability studies and the disabled experience, people can’t equate that to racism and sexism.
    Reply · Like · 2 seconds ago

Petition to St. Martin’s Press

Sign this petition to St. Martin’s Press regarding the publication of Kristin Henson’s book.

For more information, see previous post.

Spread the petition far and wide.


UPDATE: ACTION Alert: Hearing Person Exploiting ASL for Profit

So some hearing woman thought it’d be cool to borrow our language and make money off it while being misogynistic, sexist, racist, what have you.  She even got a book deal. She’s making money off us. Our language. Our culture. In a really uncool, totally inappropriate way.  Others have spoken so eloquently, I’ll keep their comments here but am redacting names as I do not have everyone’s permission.
I have submitted comments and emails to Stonesong Press and  St. Martin’s Press.
UPDATE: E-mail the Publicist for the book directly. Kimberly Hanson. 
UPDATE: E-mail the editor of the book directly. Daniella Rapp. 
UPDATE: Please sign this Petition: ask your friends to sign, tweet the petition, Facebook, e-mail, and get the word out!
Post your comments on Facebook, click on the links in this post to contact editors and producers to protest the promotion of a hearing person using OUR language to perpetuate sexism, racism, and make money off it while misrepresenting our language and our culture.
Dear Editors:
I am writing to share my extreme disgust and displeasure at your agency’s decision to publish Kristin Henson’s book: Super Smutty Sign Language. I am a deaf white man. American Sign Language is my language. I find Henson’s videos and view of ASL to be sexist and racist. Her use of my language is cultural appropriation. You, by publishing this book, are exploiting deaf people and our language. For profit. You are exploiting racism and sexism for profit. I am copying and pasting a few comments from others regarding Henson’s book. We suggest you rethink publishing this book. Doing so only affirms that it’s okay for hearing people to steal our language, dirty it, use it in ways that is wrong,  perpetuate oppression of minority groups, and make money off that.
Person 1 · 
I’m a [cultural-linguistic] deaf woman of color, and american sign language is one of my languages. I didn’t want to play any of the videos above. I immediately catched the at once subversive/overt racism and misogynism in some of kristin’s ‘instructional’ video, which was enough for me to abstain from clicking ‘play’ on any of them. by her ‘teaching’ us how to ‘be’/ sign ‘gangsta’ and ‘bitch, please’ I i see a simultaneous exoticification and minimization of sign language, appropriated and packaged for [white, patriarchal] entertainment value. I don’t think it is okay to reduce any language to ‘dirty words’ and even more, use a person who is just learning the language to showcase such phrases. upholding the power structure much?
kristin– you have 11,500 subscribers to your videos, which ironically have completely shoddy closed-captioning. I can get that you’re amped to learn sign language. that’s nice. but language is never removed from cultural politics, especially if you go on to commodify it. quite frankly, you’re doing it wrong. wrong wrong wrong. youre teetering the line of contributing to the cultural-linguistic appropriation of ASL and consequently u.s. deaf culture as a whole. you do even more injustice to us deaf people of color with ‘damn it feels good to be a gangsta.’ I’m not sure who gave you a misguided ‘in’ with the community so that you went forth with this disillusioned and completely offensive project. chances are, you will continue to do this project because ‘omgz it’s so cool, and like, my friends and like, all these people love it’ but I hope my comment plants a politically-conscious seed in this mind of yours, however buried it might be for awhile.
Person 2 · Washington, District of Columbia
An American Sign Language novice with 90 tutorials under her belt is “translating crude and bizarre phrases and slowly defining a universal language of sex and strife.” Oh really? Hipster racism is never cool.
Totally racist, sexist, offensive, and narrow-minded of you, Kristin, to do those incredibly tasteless vlogs. Most of the signs are inaccurate thus sorry they are not beneficial and useful like you may think. I can go on more but I can’t stand to be on this webpage any longer.
Person 3 ·
I’ve quickly scanned your psychobabble…and as a Deaf person I can tell you that what you have complied in all these videos is definitely an insult to the likes of us (Deaf community). You should start considering removing all of your videos as they show ignorance and disrespect toward the signing community. I dare you take American Sign Language (ASL) courses because I doubt you’ll last long, not because of your inability to learn, but because of your inability to realize its richness and complexity of the language. It’s sad to see how someone can take the language apart and destroy it like this.
Person 4·
Thank you so much for contributing to the commodification of one of my languages and one of my cultures. /endsarcasm I am offended and appalled by these videos and your *nerve* in thinking it’s OK to do this. You wouldn’t dare do it to Spanish, Chinese, Thai, or any other language, I bet. Why is it OK to do this to ASL? Daily Dot, shame on you for highlighting this example of racism, misogynism, ethnocentrism, minimization of ASL, etc.
Person 5- This is reprehensible. On the behalf of my community, the community of the Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and ASL users, I cry foul of the most malicious kind. This is wrong on so many levels. Appropriating a language you aren’t fluent in, appropriating a culture you clearly do not interact with, and propagating racism and sexism and audism in the name of “humor” and “knowledge”. I will do everything I can to see this book never gets off the presses.
Person 5, Part 2- I posted THIS directly to Stonesong: SUPER SMUTTY SIGN LANGUAGE is a huge slap in the face of the collective Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and American Sign Langauge (ASL) community. This is extremely offensive, not only in the subject matter, because yes, we swear and use slang, and talk dirty, but that is the point- WE do. Kristin is not a fluent signer, she is not a member of the community, and is therefore misrepresenting an entire community, an entire language, a culture, a people. This book should not be published. Yes, there is freedom of the press, but there is also libel, cultural appropriation, and theft of a language. I am a Deaf professor of ASL and Linguistics who also teaches Deaf Culture, and this has just stunned me beyond measure. This is a tragic example of a poorly researched project and endorsement of audism- which is behavior based on the notion that people who hear, or the manner of acting like those who can hear, are superior to those who do not.
Person 6- I wholeheartedly concur with what everyone said below (Octavian, [redacted], [redacted], etc). You should be -so- ashamed of yourself, putting videos of yourself butchering MY language on the internet. I was hoping everyone who commented below was being oversensitive, but it only took one video to realize their objections to what you’re doing are completely and utterly justified. If you had any shred of self-respect, and respect for the Deaf community, you’d take this down — immediately.

Deaf School Closures are Connected to Racism and Classism

This letter will be submitted to Huffington Post to address errors and misconceptions in Courtney O’Donnell’s Article Published Today, May 30.

Correction of Errors in “Anti-LGBT Rights Governor to Speak at Prominent Deaf Civil Rights Group’s National Conference” article.

Courtney O’Donnell and Editors of the Huffington Post,

I am Octavian Robinson, the original author of the post at Deaf Politics and the blogger behind the blog site referenced in Ms. O’Donnell’s article in HuffPost. I am writing to clarify errors and misconceptions in her article, “Anti-LGBT Rights Governor to Speak at Prominent Deaf Civil Rights Group’s National Conference.”

First, Ms. O’Donnell states in her article that the NAD organized the luncheon for LGBTs and announced a new LGBT equality policy in response to our objections surrounding Governor Daugaard’s invitation to speak at the NAD.

Allow me to quote from my own article, “Hosting this luncheon then turning around and inviting an anti-gay speaker speaks volumes to your commitment to equal treatment for your membership.”

Kindly note the placement of the word, “then.” The luncheon was arranged long before Governor Daugaard’s invitation. Our objection lies in the context that the LGBT population of the NAD has been struggling for a long time to combat marginalization within the organization. The NAD leadership assured us they were serious about that by establishing a GLBT (that is the acronym they use although it is not stylistically proper) Equality Team and by organizing the luncheon.

Then they turned around and invited a legislator who has actively circumvented the LGBT’s community efforts to achieve marriage equality. This lent to the sense that the NAD was not serious about equality and rather was giving us “lip service” in not carefully making decisions that reflected its commitment to equal inclusion of all members.

To the second portion of the erroneous statement, the NAD did issue a statement supporting marriage equality. Is that the “LGBT equality policy” you are referring to? Otherwise, I am unaware of such a policy that has been released in response to this situation.

Second, it is not the only LGBTs who are raising concerns about the leadership at the NAD. This is symptomatic of a larger problem that centers on all marginalized populations within the organization including women and people of color. We must recognize that it is a broad coalition of individuals within the deaf community and their allies that are speaking out as to the NAD’s commitment to inclusion.

Third, your statement about the South Dakota School for the Deaf shows a limited understanding of the true issues surrounding schools for the deaf, their closure, and the political implications of such decisions. By claiming that deaf school closures are exclusively economic, this is a claim that denies how deeply and intimately connected all forms of marginalization are to political decision-making.

Allow me to illuminate how closures of schools for the deaf are shaped by racism and classism.

The closure of deaf schools has a close relationship with issues surrounding race and class. Closing schools for the deaf are not exclusively about economics. Closing deaf schools is not a purely economic decision. The political right often veils racist, sexist, and classist legislation as decisions of economic and fiscal responsibility. But anyone familiar with the issues surrounding schools for the deaf will tell you that deaf education is closely intertwined with class and privilege. That schools for the deaf are now increasingly serving students of color, students from low-income backgrounds, and students from deaf families.  Oralism and deaf education are closely tied to class, race, and privilege. Those schools, along with every other program that serves women, people of color, and the disabled are being subjected to funding cuts. Those cuts are justified as economically and fiscally necessary, but one cannot deny the burden of spending cuts fall within arenas where they most affect affect women, people of color, people from low-income backgrounds, or the disabled or taxes being raised. There is an undercurrent of racism and sexism in debates surrounding taxation that can be traced to the tax and property rights revolution of the 1970s.

You cannot separate issues of race, class, ability, and gender from political decision-making. Nothing is purely economic. That includes the schools for the deaf. This demonstrates that we must always cast a critical eye to the decision making processes undertaken by politicians and leaders, including the leadership of the NAD, to ensure that those decisions do not somehow have underlying factors of privileges surrounding race, class, gender, or socioeconomic status.

I hope I have made myself adequately clear on this subject. While I appreciate you have brought attention to an important issue and highlighted our struggles with eliminating marginalization within the deaf community, I think you have done our cause a disservice by not representing the facts or our positions with care.

Our issues are far too large to adequately cover in this letter, but I invite you to carefully examine our issues, read all the posts, and talk to individuals intimately involved in the issue before doing any further reporting on the issue.


T. Robinson

Address Racism in the NAD: My Letter to Affiliates

Dear Organization,

As an advocate for racial equality and inclusion, I am writing you to express my concerns about the National Association of the Deaf’s decision to invite Governor Dennis Daugaard to give a plenary presentation at the NAD Conference this summer in Louisville. Governor Daugaard’s legislative record includes the passage of legislation that impede or outright deny the civil and human rights of women, LGBTs, and people of color.
On March 12, 2012, Governor Daugaard signed an anti-Muslim bill, HB 1253 which reads, “No court, administrative agency, or other governmental agency may enforce any provisions of any religious code. The reasons why this is unconstitutional may be found at this website. This should concern all of us for a number of reasons. First, although this bill is not overtly directed at Muslims, it was generated by Islamophobia in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
Islamophobia should especially concern you as organizations that advocate for the rights and inclusion of deaf people of color. Although Islam is a widespread faith practiced by people from all walks of life, Islam has been racialized in popular discourse. Due to fearmongering and mass media portrayals, Islam is now closely associated with south/west Asian brown skinned people. Furthermore, mainstream Americans cast a suspicious eye toward Islam during the 1960s and 1970s when Islam emerged in the African-American Civil Rights movement as African-Americans sought to reclaim the religion of their ancestors. Mainstream Americans associated Islam with the radicalization of the African-American Civil Rights movement. Americans have long had discomfort with Islam, not only because of theological differences but because they have associated Islam with non-white populations. The relationship between Islamophobia and Racism cannot be denied.
Governor Daugaard also signed into law on March 5, 2012 anti-abortion measures that limited a woman’s access to health care and reproductive rights. Those attacks on reproductive rights are often intertwined with attacks on poor women and women of color, women who have disproportionately lesser access to health care as compared to their white counterparts.
As affiliates to the NAD that represent deaf people of color, I urge you to make a stand for inclusion, equality, civil rights, and admonish the NAD for providing a prominent platform to a legislator who has actively legislated to narrow civil and human rights.
Thank you,
Tavian Robinson