All posts by AshleyF

If Black English Isn’t a Language, Then Tell Me, What Is?

James Baldwin makes several good points about how a person speaks says a great deal about them. We have been talking a lot about “dialects” in class and how everyone has their own. Baldwin, however, shows that some people have their own language that’s different from their base language. He noted how white American may never have had the word “jazz” or “funky”. And that, “There was a moment, in time, and in this place, when my brother, or my mother, or my father, or my sister, had to convey to me, for example, the danger in which I was standing from the white man standing just behind me, and to convey this with a speed, and in a language, that the white man could not possibly understand, and that, indeed, he cannot understand, until today.” Baldwin’s family (and most likely generations before them) made up a word to use in case of danger. Unless you were a part of that group, you wouldn’t be able to understand what that word meant. So, it becomes a part of their own language.

“To open your mouth in England is (if I may use my black English) to ‘put your business in the street’: You have confessed your parents, your youth, your school, your salary, your self-esteem, and, alas, your future.” I can’t think of any words that I use and that people outside of my social group can understand, but this generation has abbreviated quite a lot of things. “Selfie”, “presh”, “totes”, and “legit”. Although the older generations can understand what they mean, it would be very strange if they actually used them. Unlike Baldwin, these words weren’t created by necessity, but rather, to make life that much simpler. New words are created all the time.When and how you use them tells people about you and your background just like your dialect can.

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