Jul. 26, 2011

"Acting White and Black English." #nmm.com

If you correct my English I might curse you out, give you a side eye,
or a simple blank stare.

If I am not at work,? I don’t speak standard English. It is not what
is most comfortable to me.

Last year, on one of my blog posts cross posted on Racialicious I began to explain in the comment section how I don’t use standard English, unless I have to.

One comment in particular reminded me of how we “blame the victim”,

  1. blueblack wrote:

    The inability to speak standard english will only create a permanent underclass of young African-Americans who lack the communication skills to navigate through 21st century America. To make a conscious decision to speak a certain way when in a non-professional environment is one thing, but the sad reality is that the overwhelming majority of these young people don?t have that option. They can only communicate in a manner that screams  ? I am completely uneducated!?

    Posted 29 Nov 2009 at 9:31 pm ?

My response to this is that the unwillingness to speak standard English does not create an underclass.

A society whose minimum isn’t a livable wage, creates a permanent, multi generational under caste.

Furthermore, the Dec 1st NY Times article on how Ivy League educated Black men are scrubbing the negroness from their resume’s because they can’t find employment flies in the fact of? “pull up your pants, speak English and get a job” narrative.

Ann Ferguson’s Book Bad Boys: Public Schools and the Making of Black Masculinity is probably my favorite book of the forty or so I read last year. Its social justice oriented, theoretical and it centers the voices of Black boys.

Below I will provide excerpts from Ferguson’s book with a brief response, to some of them.

Black Kids Don’t Want to Act White

“There is overemphasis on the role of peers at the principal force holding back students. This emphasis tends to give credence to the notion that it is primarily African Americans who hold individual members back from success by constantly policing and ostracizing those who seem to be “bettering” themselves. It downplays the hegemonic power of the institution that operates through normalizing practices to push certain students to the margins…”

So basically, Black kids aren’t hating on Black kids, the institutions are hating on them. #umhmm. There is some truth to that.

Acting White as a Radical Critique

“…the claim that “acting white” is a prerequisite for success becomes and insight on the part of youth into the normalizing techniques of the institution…This theory emphasizes the reproduction of class relations through schooling…it propounds that success and social mobility …is dependent on the mastery of middle class linguistic codes, lifestyles…”

Why do Some Children Choose Black English?

“…they are exposed daily to Received standard English daily through family, community, television, movies and the classroom.”

Quoting P. Trudgill ” To suggest to a child that his language and those with him he identifies is inferior in some way is to imply that he is inferior.”

“Useni Perkins contends that Black children use [Black English] because it is more in harmony with the millieu in which they must survive? pliable speech they need to navigate the locale.”

So Black children use Black English, or a variety of home languages because they need it to get from point A to point B, and to be connected with their families.? I understand that. Its about time that the rest of us do as well.

One of the social costs of assimilation is being separated from your families or LOSING your friends and having to start over. There is very little conversation around this issue. Yet it pervades the lives of high achieving-low income students of color.

Language tells people where we come from. It is also an indicator of how much power our parents have in society, as education tends to reflect our families class status, i.e.? we move out to the suburbs so our kids can go to “better schools.” Or we stay in the hood because that is all we can afford.

People don’t know what do with me, because I am fast talking, country, Brooklyn, I have hella “been to’s” and if you come at me sideways I MIGHT get rational and legal. #ummhmm.

Thoughts on Black English and Acting White?

Do we choose language as an act of survival?

Black English a language?

notes
  1. daniellemertina reblogged this from strugglingtobeheard and added:
    Before college, I only considered this topic from the “don’t say I speak white” side. And I used to be bitter because...
  2. leafscar answered: A friend in my Army unit is a black medical student. He’s one of the smartest people I know and speaks Black English always. So There.
  3. harrietsdaughter reblogged this from notesonascandal and added:
    Black Boys is one of the best books ever.
  4. goodgirllexxaye reblogged this from notesonascandal
  5. expectaction reblogged this from sidneyandre
  6. bad-dominicana reblogged this from howtobeterrell and added:
    preach. and err’body betta keep naming they kids by efnic ass names. fuck em.
  7. howtobeterrell reblogged this from strugglingtobeheard and added:
    I am black. Why the fuck can’t I speak the way I do and enjoy success? Jay Z does. Kanye West does. Beyonce does. The...
  8. mgomes reblogged this from newmodelminority
  9. mgomes answered: oh wow, this happens to intersect nicely with a master’s thesis i’m workin on right now. hit me up if yr interested in any “academic” sources
  10. strugglingtobeheard reblogged this from dopegirlfresh and added:
    I enjoyed the hell out of that. I really agree that language is both a survival mechanism and often an indication of...
  11. blackdaughter reblogged this from notesonascandal
  12. dopegirlfresh reblogged this from notesonascandal
  13. allycatstrikesagain reblogged this from notesonascandal
  14. notesonascandal answered: in my fam,it has always been important for us to learn to “code switch”. so we could be capable & navigate thru both frameworks.
  15. notesonascandal reblogged this from newmodelminority and added:
    Ya’ll are not ready for the heat that #AllCity brings. My friends are SMART PEOPLE!
  16. newmodelminority posted this
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