Deaf Community Debates Sign for ‘Joe Biden’

The Deaf community is currently debating on what exactly to sign for the U.S. President-Elect Joe Biden. Until now, the community has been spelling the name out, signing B-I-D-E-N, but many public figures, including the president, often get shorthand signs instead of spelling out the name. For example, the sign for Donald Trump is to wave one’s hand above one’s head, as if it is emulating hair being picked up in the wind. Other political shorthands include the sign for Bernie Sanders, which is waving hand from your heart to Feel the Bern, whereas Nixon’s sign is to put one’s hand in the n shape, and move across one’s chin to indicate the word liar.

As for Biden, there has been no consensus on what to call him. The Deaf community has raised concerns over a previous suggestion for a possible American Sign Language gesture as it resembles that of a gang. The name is supposed to represent Biden’s Ray Ban sunglasses that he often wears, and is made by making a c shape with one’s pointer finger and thumb. However, this c shape is almost exactly that of the gang sign for the Crips.

“The deaf community tends to come together to create new signs when our society experiences changes,” said Michael Agyin, a deaf activist in L.A. and the founder of the Compton ASL Club told the LA Times. “Just as a sign for the coronavirus came about, the same applies to the new president.”

Felicia Williams pointed out on NPR that there is no rush to decide for a shorthand sign and that there is no single authority to make the final call. The community, instead, will coalesce around a sign.

“I think that we need to just slow down and back up and have white deaf people respect the space and have the process be organic. Don’t force it,” Williams stated on NPR through an interpreter.

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