The Movement Falls On Deaf Ears Every Day So Don’t Get Too Upset

, , , | Right | August 28, 2020

There is a coffee shop in my town which is owned and run by a deaf man. Unlike the vast majority of customers, I know some sign language, so he always comes to chat to me. He has only just reopened his coffee shop after the health crisis. “Black Lives Matter” is on all the news. We are both white. This conversation happens in sign language.

Me: “Hey, did you get married?”

He had plans to get married, but weddings were banned because of lockdown.

Owner: *Holding up his ring finger* “Yes!”

Me: “Congratulations! When?”

Owner: “Two weeks ago, here.”

Me: “Here in the coffee shop?”

Owner: “Well, a tiny wedding in the car park.”

Me: “What’s your wife called?”

He spells her name. The letters don’t seem to make any sense, and I doubt I am understanding him properly.

Me: “What? Again please?”

He spells again, very slow and clear. I haven’t heard it before. It’s difficult to understand unfamiliar names.

Owner: “African name.”

Me: “Oh, your wife is African?”

I spell her name.

Owner: “Yes.”

Me: “Is she black?”

Owner: “Yes.”

Me: “Black Lives Problem.”

I feel horrified! There is no direct translation of “matter,” as in BLM. I tried to translate it as “important,” but it came out as “problem,” which is a similar sign. From the context and the shape of my mouth, he knows what I meant and just laughs.

Me: “Sorry! Matter! Black Lives Matter!”

Owner:This is ‘important.’ This is ‘problem’ or ‘difficult.’ You mean ‘important’!”

Me: “Tell [Wife] I say hi. And congratulations!”

This is partly why I enjoy learning sign language. Deaf people are very forgiving of my mistakes!

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