Check out this interview with Anna Witter Merithew on NPR about Lydia Callis, the interpreter for Mayor Bloomberg during Hurricane Sandy that got a ton of national coverage.
Here is what I had to say on Facebook about a skit on Chelsea Lately.
“I really appreciate that people think interpreting and ASL is neat, and I get that every group has to take some flack from comedians once in a while. I would also be remiss if I didn’t say something about this meme. Lydia Callis was doing nothing unusual. The facial expressions are a grammatical part of the language. If you didn’t use them you would be botching the language. This meme feels a little like walking into a restaurant and having everyone stare while you sign, but with a magnifying glass and slow motion capture. I think this video is pretty similar to blackface. You would never watch video of a person speaking Chinese, and make a video of yourself mimicking them in an exaggerated and stereotyped way and have people think its funny. It would clearly be racist and I think (hope) it would make people as uncomfortable as this video should. Somehow I don’t think that is the effect it is having.”