Yesterday, the Huffington Post did a story on a music video that was supposedly done in American Sign Language. The video was done by Mark Nakhla, Greg Faxon And Sam Choi, doing a cover of Kayne West and Jay-Z’s ‘No Church In The Wild’.
Numerous Deaf people, including myself, who are either fluent or native ASL users, upon seeing this video are quite upset. The signing is barely comprehensible to us. It has been described as gibberish and babble. A few ASL signs can be glimpsed in the video, but for the most part, it is utterly incoherent. Mark Nakhla has defended this video by claiming that this video was using ASL glosses and this was an artistic interpretation of the song. He admits he uses some gestures, which is completely different than signs in a signed language. To be irrevocably clear: gestures =! sign. Anyone who would do some basic fact-checking would realize this.
Therefore, this brings up numerous questions. Why did Huffington Post cover a music video that claims to use American Sign Language, but is incomprehensible to fluent and native ASL users? Why didn’t they at least consult with ASL experts to verify that the video does use the language? Why doesn’t Huffington Post cover music videos that are done by Deaf persons, such as Rosa Lee Timm and LankyListman, but only those that are done by hearing people who are extremely poor in using ASL?
And why is it that when we complain about the misrepresentation and exploitation of our language, we’re either ignored or scolded for daring to object?
If an English singer decided to do a song in Spanish or any other language that is spoken with the voice, and they mangled the pronunciation of the foreign words, they would be met with wide-spread criticism, even when given room for ‘artistic interpretation’. And the criticism would be considered as valid and appropriate. Yet this is not the case when it comes to the usage of the Deaf people’s language, American Sign Language.
Why is that?
I can only conclude that there is no sincere respect for signed languages such as American Sign Language, and it is ultimately not considered a real language amongst the mainstream. This is despite decades of scholarly research confirming that indeed, ASL and other signed languages are genuine languages, just like spoken ones.
This is a saddening testimony to how ignored and oppressed the Deaf Community is, in my opinion. Our objections and opinions on issues that concern us, are simply brushed aside as if we do not truly matter.