P.C. for the Deaf
Political correctness has caught up with sign language for deaf people. Gestures used to depict ethnic and religious minorities and homosexuals are being dropped because they are now deemed offensive.
The abandoned signs include “Jewish”, in which a hand mimes a hooked nose; the sign for “gay”, a flick of a limp wrist; and “Chinese”, in which the index fingertips pull the eyes into a slant. Another dropped sign is that for “Indian”, which is a finger pointing to an imaginary spot in the middle of a forehead.
The signs have been declared off-limits by the makers of Vee-TV, Channel 4’s programme for deaf people, for fear of being accused of racism and homophobia. Caroline O’Neill, a senior researcher at Vee-TV, explained: “We have a sign language monitor on the channel who checks that what we are doing is culturally appropriate.”
Critics labelled the move as silly yesterday, saying that the producers were interfering with “deaf culture”.
Polly Smith, the acting chairperson of the British Council for Disabled People, said that the changes were a form of discrimination.
“The programme makers at Channel 4 are interfering with deaf people’s language, culture and view of society, and that is a form of discrimination,” she said.
Now, I’m as anti-PC as the next guy. I root for the Atlanta Braves. I don’t see anything wrong with the Washington Redskins (as a team name, anyway). I think “African American” is a really confusing and awkward substitute for “black.”
But damn. Sometimes, things that we once thought perfectly normal become obviously offensive. These things seem to fit into that category.