White interpreters, listen to the Black community

Hey, you white interpreters. While working, if the presenter says the full n-word, you go ahead and interpret it. Is that okay? No, never. Never. Let me explain more.

Hello, I’m Rogan. Yes, this happened a few weeks ago and made the rounds. I’m “late” with this vlog, but really, this topic is still relevant. I feel like this will continue to be a problem. Before I continue, I want to recognize that obviously, I am white. I’m also very masculine-presenting. I have those privileges. So if I say anything wrong, please correct me in the comments. Please.

A little backstory for those who may not be aware or forgot. White interpreters think it’s fine to–while interpreting and working–if the speaker says the full n-word, go ahead and spell it or sign the full word. That’s fine, because “it’s not me saying it, it’s the speaker saying that.” Plus, several ITP students are currently being taught to, yes, do that. I actually saw on Twitter, one person saying that their ITP did this–They felt really uncomfortable, the teacher had the students chant the n-word. It’s not okay! Never! For a long time, the Black community, Black interpreters, have asked white interpreters to please stop saying the full n-word. Stop. But it still happens. And there are ITPs teaching this!

I want to take a moment now to clarify. I did mention this on my IG Stories when this came up. I said yes, that’s right, we should not. I’ve never. I don’t want to. I’m not saying that interpreters should skip that word. No. I’m saying that white interpreters, if the speaker says the full n-word, okay. I sign “n-word” or I can say “they said the full n-word.” Something like that. I don’t go ahead and spell the full word or actually sign that word. That’s not my place. You know what I mean. You know. You don’t need me to say the full word. You don’t need it.

I had some of my friends who are white interpreters message me. We had a discussion. They said that it feels like censorship, cleaning up their words. Ahh, that’s…no. You still say, or inform, that the speaker said this word. Yes. You still say that. Don’t remove that word from the sentence completely, no! They have a purpose, a reason why they said that word. Still sign “n-word” or maybe “full n-word.” Something like that. Use context to explain, inform that they did use the full word. I want to add emphasis here. The full n-word should never be signed, fingerspelled, or voiced by white interpreters. Never. I want to clearly emphasize that.

About censorship and cleaning up the language. Really, no it’s not. Yes, there are interpreters who won’t say or sign curse words, like fuck, bullshit, shit, like that. Yes, those are curse words–and interpreters should be signing these. The n-word… That’s not a curse word. It’s a slur. Negative, a put-down. Specifically, a racial slur. This targets a group of people, Black people. Curse words don’t, they’re broad and apply to anyone. The n-word applies only to Black people. That’s the difference.

Again: curse words should be interpreted directly. Racial slurs–the n-word, or others putting down Mexican people, Asians, like those–those should be, not implied, but informed of the intention. Like “n-word.” People understand what it means. They will understand. White people, when they use the n-word… It’s only with the intention of putting down. They may have some who will use with their friends, but that’s with a specific group of people.

Really, you have no reason for a white person to say the n-word. Never. Not even while interpreting. No. While interpreting, yes, do give context, give information, inform that they said the full word, not just “n-word.” They actually said the full word. White interpreters should never say it. I don’t know how many times I can say that. Do not say the n-word, period. No matter the reason.

I hope that helped it become clear why. Because some people were like, yes I understand that I should not say it, but why? I hope that helped clarify it. Or for those who thought it was okay, this helped you realize that you should not.

I want to again recognize my white privilege and masculine-presenting privilege. I just want to use my platform, as a white and male-presenting person, to spotlight those issues and voices that have been pushed down for a long time. So if there’s a way I can do this better, please let me know. And I will be happy to work with BIPOC for more visibility. But at the same time, I don’t want to put the work on them. I’m trying to find that balance. Using my voice to say hey, look, pay attention and at the same time, make sure they have their time, have their voices seen. I want you to discuss in the comments. Please keep it civil. Don’t get mean. That doesn’t help anyone. But be open to listening.

That’s it for today. Please, before you leave, look below this paragraph. I’ve linked a few Black Deaf creators. Please check them out, learn from them. Don’t rely on me as your only learning resource, okay?

Published by Rogan Shannon

Hello there! I'm Rogan, a queer deaf guy who has a passion for leadership and advocacy. I create YouTube videos about a lot of different topics - being deaf, queer, reading, language, and whatever else interests me!

Leave a Reply