This study investigates cultural competence in the field of signed language interpreting and the persistence of African American/Black signed language interpreters in the field. To date, no research in the discipline of signed language interpreting studies has looked at how the cultural competence of practitioners impacts colleague dynamics, nor has there been identification of how cultural competence impacts interpreters’ persistence in the field. Data for this study were collected over a period of several months utilizing ethnographic research methods. Face-to-face focus groups, a large-scale questionnaire, and follow up interviews were conducted. A search of the literature revealed that while a lack of cultural competence does impact colleague dynamics and the provision of services within the field, the larger issue may be the African American/Black interpreter’s lack of social capital. This study found that African American/Black interpreters regularly experience subtle instances of racism directed toward them from consumers and colleagues. In large part, African American/Black interpreters view their White interpreting colleagues and educators to be lacking in cultural competence. This places an added psychological burden on the African American/Black interpreter that impacts their social capital and the effort they must expend in order to connect with their peers. The result may be burnout and the desire to change careers. To increase the culturally competent provision of services and improve colleague dynamics within the field, African American/Black Deaf consumers and African American/Black interpreters alike desire recruitment of interpreters from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.

Exit Requirement


Date of Award

Winter 3-2-2015

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Interpreting Studies

Committee Chair

Elisa Maroney

Committee Member

Emily Plec

Committee Member

Jeremy Brunson


African American/Black, Cultural Competence, Social Capital, Aversive Racism, Signed Language Interpreting, Critical Mass, Interpreter



Type (DCMI Terms)


Subject Categories

Adult and Continuing Education and Teaching | African American Studies | Bilingual, Multilingual, and Multicultural Education | Critical and Cultural Studies | Curriculum and Instruction | Ethnic Studies | Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Ethnicity in Communication | International and Intercultural Communication | Interpersonal and Small Group Communication | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies | Social Influence and Political Communication

Rights Statement

Western Oregon University Library has determined, as of 6/26/2018, this item is in copyright, which is held by the author. Users may use the item in accordance with copyright limitations and exceptions, including fair use. For other uses, please ask permission from the author at the email address listed above.

Rights Statement URL




Rights Statement

In Copyright

In Copyright. URI: http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/InC/1.0/
This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).