Dear Deaf Community Members,
One of our self-proclaimed representatives, Nyle DiMarco, has made an erroneous vlog stating that the 1988 Deaf President Now (DPN) protest is parallel to the riots, vigils, and protests happening across America to show anger towards the police for their irresponsible conduct towards the Black community. In Nyle’s video, he starts out talking about the Black community before he spends the rest of his time talking about the Deaf community.
As a response, Kendra Adeola made several great points on the true impact of DiMarco’s vlog. While Kendra applauds him for making this vlog, I personally don’t. Nyle, you could have posted a simple statement saying something like, “I look forward to standing with the Black community against the injustice they are facing” or something along the lines. But no, you had to focus on the Deaf community. That brings us to an excellent question Adeola brought up in her post, “Can you explain to me, how the Deaf community can relate to the injustice, discrimination, and stereotypes [the Black community faces]?” Kendra states that while the Act for Americans with Disabilities backs up Deaf community members and their rights are protected, Black community members’ rights are constantly violated. The police is killing Black people while Deaf people are complaining that they are forced to use pen and paper when they are pulled over. (Insert sarcasm here – oh yeah, exactly the same thing!)
While many of us have tried to share that our experience of oppression has helped us be empathetic, this is not the time to be comparing our battles with the Black community. The Black community is asking for us to stand with them now. Stop making this about you, Nyle. The Black community stood with us during the DPN protest and lent us the civil rights movement banner. That was their way of saying, “your fight is our fight.” They did not step in and start wagging their tongues talking about how the Black community faces oppression “just like the Deaf community”. But even long after the protest, Gallaudet University has an embarrassing reputation when it comes to their treatment of the POC community, especially Black people. It is humiliating that DPN protestors used the civil rights banner in their march and we are still shaming the very community that supported us.
Sometimes, Nyle, the best thing to do is sit down and shut up. As Adeola said, you really should’ve thought twice before posting the garbage you posted (my words, not hers). Listen to the people that are in our community that are Black. They know and understand their struggles so much better than we, White people, will ever understand. Yes, there are some people that are White-passing and have some privileges that they don’t think about… but this is not the time to talk about the privileges that they do not have. It is time to shut up. It is time to sit down and listen to those that deserve the platform.
Multiple videos have been posted by the Black (Deaf) community to talk about the different things they can’t do. Watch those videos (links shown below the article), listen to their stories. Black Deaf and hearing people struggle with blatant discrimination and racism from the police in ways that Deaf whites do not. People don’t take one look at you and say “you’re deaf,” but they do look at someone with a dark skin color and say, ”you’re Black.” There is no way a White person will ever fathom the real struggle of living life as a Black person.
We, at Deaf Vee Journal, wrote an article about White Fragility (shared on DVJ on 02.05.2020) and it still rings true today. We as a community struggle with the idea that we are so discriminated against, we should have all hands on the deck to discuss and solve our problems. It is NOT the time for that! Ken Davis from Deaf Newspaper “coined” a sign name for George Floyd and not only is it not his place, he also picked classifiers for kneeling on the throat as a sign name. How much more triggering can you get? This almost trumps Nyle’s efforts to sign Black Panther publicly.
Do you see a pattern here? White men who think they are above all of us come up with sign names for things that don’t belong to them. White men continue to ignore the fact that it’s not their time. It must be tough knowing that the world is sick of White man privilege. Guess what? Time only goes forward not backwards.
It is time to stop it, time to give the black community their voice, and focus on what THEY have to say. In the meantime, here are some vlogs that are powerful and focus on the actual matter at hand:
To learn about disability justice that also centers the voice of Black activists with disabilities, sign up for Crip Camp here: https://cripcamp.com/officialvirtualexperience. ASL interpreting and captioning are provided for all Crip Camp’s online webinars, and it is free to sign up.
Mary Pat Luetke-Stahlman
P.S. You are a well-known face of LEAD-K, all about access to both sign language and English. You made the BLM/DPN vlog in ASL, and yet you posted your apology about it in English. If you are going to apologize, at least apologize with a vlog in ASL. You just deprived your own community members from being able to understand what you just said.