Erykah Badu is no stranger to being publicly scrutinized or criticized for her song choices, the men she dates, and the photos she uploads with her daughter, Puma.
This time the neo-soul singer is under fire after she posted an Instagram video on Monday, Aug. 29 of herself imitating a sign language interpreter on a split screen with CNN’s Erin Burnett.
Audio associated with Burnett’s report seems to be a description of a police press conference in 2017 focused on a serial killer. It appears to be a make reference to interpreter Derlyn Roberts, who “sat up there and waved her arms like she was singing Jingle Bells.”
“It’s happened again. Another sign language interpreter accused of signing total gibberish. This time it was at the police news conference announcing an arrest in the Tampa serial killings, standing off to the side apparently translating every word,” the CNN anchor said.
The “Next Lifetime” singer took the opportunity to seemingly make a joke out of the report in a manner that offended many of Badu’s followers, who lit up her comment section, saying how “incredibly disrespectful” the video was.
In the clip, the chart-topper can be seen flailing her arms and doing silly gestures like “cut it out,” scratching her underarms, playing in her hair, and doing the robot and King Tut dances.
Many railed against the star for the insensitive gag in her comment section.
“Ma’am this is not funny. You do realize deaf people already struggle with getting proper access to American Sign Language? If you don’t I’m willing to educate you. This is very insensitive.”
“This isn’t funny.. I hope you know that, right? It’s a mockery and harms the deaf community.”
“This isn’t funny. Learn what Audism is?!”
Audism is the practice and belief that being able to hear makes you superior to those who have lost the to hear or have lived their lives with deafness, according to Gallaudet University’s public resources.
One comment explained that Badu has no idea what a blessing qualified interpreters actually are to the deaf community. Research from the Deaf Unity charity says that 1 in 4 deaf (or hard of hearing) people experience workplace discrimination, particularly if there is no interpreter available or there is no technology to help with communication.
“If a bunch of Deaf people are in the comments saying this is trash..maybe prioritize and listen to them. Audism is a serious issue. Lack of trustworthy interpreters can cost people their well-being. Think of an ASL interpreter messing up in a medical situation. Please, apologize and read up on Deaf culture.”
Others came to Badu’s defense, suggesting that she was mocking those who pretend to know sign language, not the deaf community.
“I can’t with these comments, as she is NOT mocking the hearing impaired but rather the ill will person who stood a part of that very serious police news conference and communicated absolutely nothing to individuals whom form of TV is a trusted sign language interpreter.”
“How dumb can you guys be? she isn’t mocking deaf people she’s ‘mocking’ people who fake sign language.”
While Badu has not released a public statement regarding the video, she has removed it from her profile feed. It can now only be viewed by going to the reels section on her Instagram page.