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I didn’t know what else to title this post, but I did want to have it out there and talk about it with you, if possible.

Watch this:

This stumps me a little.

I mean, on one hand, I’m really thrilled when I see products like the ASL “kind” shirt being sold at huge retailers like Target. I liked seeing the ILY in the Women’s March. I like seeing anything and everything that I can about my people and Deaf culture.

But is it really fair, as this woman is saying, for hearing people without regard to ASL, to be profiting from all that these signs mean?

It reminds me of rastafarian stuff, Jamaican colors – how misrepresented they often are, used and profited upon by people who have nothing to do with what they really mean to those who believe or are a part of that culture.

Which gives me pause – is ASL and the ILY sign becoming simply trendy to people with no connection to us? The piece about the donation to Deaf Women United being dramatically less than ACLU or PP is valid; the very sign that they are using to promote the campaign is a symbol for a struggle of the Deaf, which makes their use of it reek of appropriation.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

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  1. I always use the ILY symbol with my children, for what I believe it stands for, ‘I love you’. I was unaware that it stands for something different in the Deaf community. As a person who is not deaf, I appreciate the attention the video brings to how some businesses/people exploit disabilities for self profit. I will ask questions those questions mentioned in the video the next time I make such a purchase. Thanks for the insight.

    1. It is part of American Sign Language, created by the Deaf for the Deaf, and hearing audiologists ban ASL from deaf and hard of hearing babies, but pediatricians are colonizing it and encouraging parents to use it with hearing babies. It doesn’t stand for something different than a short cut for I love you using fingerspelling instead of the signs, like an acronym. But if you use our words and erase the link to us and Deaf culture, then you are culturally appropriating from a minority group.

      I saw on Etsy a really great looking Deaf method of art on posters, not fingerspelling but movement of signs for several words. But I contacted the seller who admitted he is fully hearing, has no family Deaf, and has no connection to our culture. He just is an artist and thought he could make money with his talent. These are spendy, and all profit goes to his wallet, not the Deaf Community. He was polite, but clearly exploiting us.

      There are so many products out there, it is so important to ask questions and find out who really is an owner of property before you buy.

  2. Destinie Brown says:

    I was not aware of the fact if i purchase something to support the deaf community they don’t share the profits.

    1. Unless you ASK a person if they are Deaf, and who reaps the profit, you can assume it is a hearing person exploiting our language and culture and very existence for the exotic look, trendiness.

  3. Meriah, you got it spot on! I am sharing this with my Deafies.

    The long list of abuses, raping, scamming, stealing from the Deaf, and the lack of equity and inclusion in so many ways, including lack of census data to prove how many have ASL as a first language and lack of studies on the effects upon Deaf elders forced into nursing homes where nobody signs…all that is ignored to focus on how “pretty ASL looks, I could profit off that.”

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