All posts by Dina Pobudanovic

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

In James Baldwin’s essay he is trying to explain that even though people may speak the same language, it is going to be different based on where they come from, who they are, what they do, and the experiences they have gone through. In his essay, he brings up how when slaves came to America, the white people didn’t have any interest in educating them because they didn’t need an education. So for that reason, the blacks developed their own language that was not, “merely, the adoption of a foreign tongue, but an alchemy that transformed ancient elements into a new language.”(160) This language was used to connect blacks to one another and to identify who they were. Baldwin even says, “[Language] is the most vivid and crucial key to identity: It reveals the private identity, and connects one with, or divorces one from, the larger, public, or communal identity.” (159)

I completely agree with Baldwin in that language identifies who you are and it connects you to a community of people that are similar to you. My dad was born in Bosnia, so my family speaks Bosnian. When we first moved to the United States, I had no idea that there were so many Bosnian people that lived in and around Charlotte. There was a whole network of us across North Carolina and although we were all different in a sense, it was our language that connected us to one another. And I know my parents will always introduce themselves to people when they hear them talking Bosnian. It’s not very common to see or hear a Bosnian around here and not know who they are because we all know each other. And it’s always easy to connect to them because we already have our language in common and we’re bound to have even more things in common with them because of that.

Overall, I believe that Baldwin was very angry in his essay because he believed that whites didn’t want to accept Black English and they felt threatened by it. I believe times have changed, greatly, since this essay was written and there is no more segregation like there was back then. Black English is just as widely accepted as Spanglish, and every other language that is similar to English.