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Deaf African-American Student Couldn’t Communicate With White Peers Using Black American Sign Language

A deaf African-American college student was surprised to find that the sign language she’d used for the majority of her life was ineffective when she tried to communicate with her white classmates.

via The Grio

Carolyn McCaskill, is a deaf, African-American woman who has made it her profession to study deaf culture. A professor at Gallaudet University, the famous institution for deaf and hard of hearing students, McCaskill has been ensconced in such learning communities from a young age. But when she entered a racially integrated school for the first time at 15, she was shocked to learn that she could not understand the signs of her fellow students and teachers — because they were white.

“I was dumbfounded,” McCaskill told The Washington Post about her ordeal. “I was like, ‘What in the world is going on?’” The teenaged McCaskill had to relearn signs for simple words and the correct spaces around her body in which to make them in order to communicate. “I put my signs aside,” she said.

An African-American Galludet University student had this to say about the the Black ASL:

“We include our culture in our signing,” Mercedes Hunter told the Post. “We make our signs bigger, with more body language,” the hearing African-American student at Gallaudet elaborated, which stresses the “unique flavor” of the communicator.

Very interesting findings. Do you think it’s important for hearing impaired African-American students to have their own sign language?

Image via Shutterstock



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