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Jamie Foxx Is in Hot Water for Using Fake Sign Language for Laughs on TV

Looks like Jamie Foxx is going to have to watch what he says, even when he’s using his hands.

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The actor is now in some hot water with former Dancing with the Stars contestant and deaf model, Nyle DiMarco, who called out Foxx’s fake sign language usage on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon recently. DiMarco uploaded a clip to his Twitter on Saturday, May 27 in which you can see Foxx doing what appears to be sign language with his hands as the show goes to commercial break. In DiMarco’s opinion, these actions on Foxx’s part crossed a serious line.

DiMarco tweeted out the clip, made sure to tag Foxx in his comments, and wrote, “It is straight up disrespectful to make up sign language. Everything is in gibberish.” While the clip doesn’t include any context for why Foxx would be making those hand gestures, it does appear to make Fallon laugh. It would appear that DiMarco did not find anything funny about it. One can speculate this is because Foxx’s actions may poke fun at those who use sign language as a necessary means of communication in their everyday lives. It could also be seen as a form of ableism — discrimination in words or actions against those who are differently abled.

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DiMarco made sure to focus some of his disgust toward Fallon as well. In a second tweet, he wrote, “Also- @jimmyfallon @FallonTonight how was this allowed? Where’s the cultural sensitivity. Not comedy when you make fun of others.”

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After calling out both Foxx for his insensitivity and perceived mocking of the deaf community through mimicking sign language without actually saying words, as well as calling out Fallon and The Tonight Show for allowing that footage to air, he wrote a letter and posted it to his Twitter to explain why he found Foxx’s actions so reprehensible. “We simply do not make fun at the expense of other cultures, especially with a history of those being marginalized,” DiMarco wrote.

He continued a little further in the note, saying, “Sign Language is important to me because it is the bedrock of Deaf culture. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities says Sign Language is a human right of deaf people, and out of 70 million worldwide, only 2 percent have access to education in Sign Language. […] What Foxx did on Fallon Tonight made our struggle that much harder.”

Foxx and Fallon have not commented on the incident, but there’s no doubt that through DiMarco, attention and awareness about the careful use of sign language on television may be brought to the forefront.

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