Speech and Racism

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Orleander, Apr 27, 2008.

  1. visceral_instinct Monkey see, monkey denigrate Valued Senior Member

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    It does indeed.
     
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  3. CutsieMarie89 Zen Registered Senior Member

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    I actually believe the word negro is still used, not as commonly as black or African-American though. There are still negro scholarship foundations and the like. Personally I hate the term African-American, but that may just be me. What I foind with a lot of black students who speak "ebonics" and then turn around and write in "ebonics" has nothing to do with intelligence its more so defiant. Although many think "ebonics" should be classified as another language, I think most people who speak it can speak, read, and write plain old English too. They just choose not to for cultural identity reasons or something else. They can they just won't.
     
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  5. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    Well sure. Words get enshrined in the names of institutions and serve as our linguistic history. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is still quite active.
    I prefer Afro-American, which was in vogue briefly in the 1960s and 70s. "Afro" is a common suffix in the human sciences, we even have an Afro-Asiatic language family that includes Ancient Egyptian, Amharic, Hebrew and Arabic. Still, "African-American" is like "Irish-American," "Mexican-American" or "Chinese-American. Individuals are free (with a certain amount of effort and commitment) to assimilate out of that cultural community into the Melting Pot. When you're "black" or "negro" or "colored" you stay that way until you die.
    That's just ignorance of the "soft science" of linguistics. The definition of the difference between a language and a dialect is that speakers of two dialects of the same language can understand each other, perhaps with a little effort, while speakers of two languages cannot. Ebonics is just as much a dialect of English as Southern American, New England, Scots, Australian, or the many regional dialects of England, because we really can all understand each other with a little effort.

    Unfortunately cultural struggles such as that in Belgium often bring in language as a weapon and it sets a bad precedent. The northern Belgians for decades insisted that Flemish is a distinct language, in order to bolster their case for a "Flemish national identity," when in fact Flemish is nothing but a rather easily intercomprehensible dialect of Dutch.
    As I said in an earlier post, the wounds created by the Civil War have still not healed, 140 years later. The population in every other former slaveholding country in the Western Hemisphere (except Haiti) comes in a spectrum of brown. Only in America (and Haiti), where slavery was ended by violence, are there still separate communities of "black"
    and "white" people, in which some members advocate a greater separation rather than mutual assimilation.

    In an era when the human race is taking baby steps toward becoming one single community, the people of the United States are not setting a good example.
     
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  7. Pandaemoni Valued Senior Member

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    I would point out that ebonics in fact does have grammar, it's just different than that of that of "Standard English" (though "standard" is very much different from "proper" or "correct" in this context), and it is surely no less "English" than Standard English is.
     
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2008
  8. skaught The field its covered in blood Valued Senior Member

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    Well this is all fine and good, but the class I am in is "English" not "Ebonics".
     
  9. CutsieMarie89 Zen Registered Senior Member

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    And the sooner black students realize this the sooner stereotypes will decrease. No one is attacking their race, but for some reason it comes off that way. It makes me so frustrated.
     
  10. Enmos Staff Member

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    But the original question was if it's racist to say that people that speak Ebonics are dumb.
    I think it is, because it's either black people or non-black people emulating black people that are speaking it.. :shrug:
    No matter from which angle you look at it Ebonics is strongly connected to African American people.

    Edit: Alright, racial prejudice then..

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  11. Orleander OH JOY!!!! Valued Senior Member

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    For me the litmus test is whether or not you can speak it at an interview and get the job. Vally Girl lingo is right there with eubonics. You speak it, I shave off IQ points.
     
  12. Enmos Staff Member

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    Vally Girl Lingo ? lol

    Alright, I believe you when you say you don't mean it in any racist way. But it sure comes off as racist.
     
  13. cosmictraveler Be kind to yourself always. Valued Senior Member

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    If I don't understand what someone is saying I just don't listen to them because it would be fruitless on my part to try and converse with them.

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  14. skaught The field its covered in blood Valued Senior Member

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    Yeah I do agree to an extent. I can honestly say with certainty that everyone I have ever met who speaks that way has been ridiculously unintelligent. And it is almost as if they are proud of their ignorance. I have yet to meet one person who speaks Ebonics who has even a shred of intelligence. But mind you, its not only blacks who speak this way. I met people from all races who speak this way. And if one of them says something profound or shows some sign of intelligent thought, I will give them full credit!
     
  15. Enmos Staff Member

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    Maybe acting dumb is part of the act..?

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  16. skaught The field its covered in blood Valued Senior Member

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    Could be, but I think it comes naturally

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  17. Pandaemoni Valued Senior Member

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    It just sounds as if you are hostile to to the notion of ebonics as a dialect in every way as valid as the dialect you teach and prefer (standard American English). As a result you are making statements about it that seem to me inaccurate in an effort to denigrate it (for example, suggesting that it has no grammar and referring to the standard dialect as "English" so as to differentiate it, even though ebonics too is "English"). (That's not to say that one can't have a preference for languages, just that there is zero justification for thinking one language or dialect as better to another save in the same sort of sense that some might assert that ice cream is "better" than yogurt)

    From there you get into the question of when denigrating a language or dialect is different from denigrating the people who speak it. There is a technical distinction to be made, but when many people attacked and hated the Irish, attacking and denigrating Irish Gaelic was widespread. (As a result of which attacks on Gaelic generally, in the name of pushing English—often thought of as the "better" language—various Gaelic dialects are now rare to the point where "save Gaelic" efforts are sometimes undertaken and legislation passed to encourage their use.) In my reading of history, it seems to me that those who denigrate a given language or dialect often are masking hostility to the speakers of that language or dialect, even though that need not be true in every case. Language being such a key part of cultural identity for many, however, it would be difficult for a native speaker of many a tongue or dialect to avoid anger in the face of an attack on his or her language.

    It's also interesting to realize that standard English is no less a hodgepodge than ebonics. In the post above I managed to use words with roots in Germanic, Old Norse, French, Arabic, Turkish, Latin, Greek and Italian, that I can see on quick glance.
     
  18. skaught The field its covered in blood Valued Senior Member

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    So you are comparing language to dairy products??? :shrug:

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    And also, comparing Ebonics to Gaelic is like comparing apples to oranges.I don't know much about Gaelic, but I imagine it didn't rise out of a lack of education.
    Ebonics arose from poor uneducated people who never learned how to speak properly. This, I believe, is why it is associated with stupidity.

    And what I don't quite get is, do Ebonics speakers see it as a "language" or a "dialect"? I seem to remember years ago when the idea of "Ebonics" came out, that speakers of it claimed it was a new language. If this is the case, then it has no place in an "English" class.
    Henceforth, Everything I say is with the assumption that Ebonics is a language separate from English.
    Also, if this is the case, it is an unfair comparison to compare it to Gaelic!

    If it is a dialect of English, then its grammar is incorrect for English grammar. If it has different grammar, then shouldn't it be considered a different language?

    As far as the denigrating: I am denigrating the students in my class, which is an advanced English class, who still can barely formulate a coherent sentence.

    However, You seem to know more about linguistics than me, and I do not claim to be an English major of any sort. Maybe everything I say is ignorant and stupid. I am willing to accept that. But when I go in for a job interview against someone who speaks like that, I can tell you who's going to get the job. If someone wants to write a book, I can tell you what the publishers are going to look for. I feel that if someone can't formulate a coherent sentence, then they have no place in an academic environment.
     
  19. DeepThought Banned Banned

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    Unless they're black, in which case they should be considered a potential PhD candidate for some made up academic discipline in the field of post-modern cultural studies.

    No, it's racist not to.

    Ebonics is insolent noise, an attack on the complexity and depth of the English language which should not be tolerated in any academic institution in the Western world.

    Moreover, how can anyone take this childish 'language' seriously?

    "Befo' you know it, he be done aced de tesses."
    (SE Before you know it, he will have already aced the tests.)

    "She BIN had dat han'-made dress"
    (SE: She's had that hand-made dress for a long time, and still does.)

    lol.
     
  20. Pandaemoni Valued Senior Member

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    In a sense you'd be mistaken. There were no gaelic universities or school houses, any more than there were English schools in the days English was forming...and even when there were it was largely the uneducated that gave shape to the early language. In fact, Gaelic began as a pre-literate language, with no means of writing available to the Celts.

    Language is not something invented in an ivory tower; it's invented by the common folk and forms out of centuries of accumulation.

    No, there is no "proper" in this context unless you think proper means "the way I prefer people do it." It's no more proper to speak standard English and improper to speak ebonics than it is proper to speak the received pronunciation of English and improper to speak American English.

    The people who developed English included a large number of illiterate serfs tending chickens, tilling the strips of land that the law forbade them to leave save with the permission of their lord. The basis of our grammar is even older than that stage and largely resulted from the simplification of the oldest Anglo-Saxon (which had no separate articles or prepositions and had irregular plurals, hence we will have oddities like the plural of ox being oxen, child and children, mouse and mice, and goose and geese). The simplification to something like its present form likely happened in the same way ebonics did: different languages (like the Scandinavian languages of the Danelaw and the Anglo-Saxon of the rest of England) collided and the grammar was adapted into a different form.

    Linguistically speaking (though the labels are in some sense arbitrary, it seems clear enough that ebonics is a dialect and not a separate language. (It's also too developed to be considered a pidgin language) In time it could develop into a separate language, in theory, but it'sfar too close to other English dialects at present. In fact, I am pretty sure that there are "English" English dialects that you'd have a harder time understanding than ebonics.

    Dialects can and do have their own grammar. A dialect is more developed than a mere accent, which is a change in pronunciation. Dialects are have their own vocabulary and grammar, as well as pronunciation.

    I certainly think that is true, and there are practical reasons for that, but there is no "objective" superiority of one dialect over another, even if some are more socially acceptable than others. Again, Gaelic was considered an uneducated peasant's language for a long time. People fluent in it and raised with it feigned not knowing it due to the social stigma, specifically when trying to get employment. In 1895, a man in Massachusetts (working in a rope factory) commented on the number of Gaelic speakers there who were ashamed that they spoke the language:
    Source

    The problem lie not with the Gaelic speakers, but with the employers who held Gaelic as a mark of inferiority. Unfortunately, even with perfect English, in America, if Robert Miller goes up for a job against Laquaan Jamaal, it's been pretty well established that, even with identical resumes, Laquaan won't even be invited in for an interview that Bob manages to secure far more often than the reverse will occur. So the fact that largely African-American dialects are also a negative is not surprising if an African-American sounding name is enough to get your resume disregarded.

    It's been a while since I read Huck Finn, or the Invisible Man or a The Color Purple, but all did pretty well, despite the realistic dialects. That said, you are right that to function in this society, students needs standard English, just not because it's "right" or "better", but rather because it's "expected" and many people (especially in the majority) like to punish people who don't flatter them by conforming to their preferred style. As such, it's the most useful dialect in the U.S., but there's no more reason to look down on speakers of other dialects any more than there is for a RP speaker to look down on someone speaking in the Yorkshire dialect or for a Midwesterner to get his panties in a bunch over a southerner with a representative southern accent who's "mispronouncing" things.

    If you are looking for linguistic purity, I am not sure it exists. We could all still be saying things like: "Se cyning geaf blancan his gumum."
     
  21. skaught The field its covered in blood Valued Senior Member

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    *Phew* that was a lot! I feel very enlightened though. I'd like to thank you for keeping this discussion civil. Thus far on this forum, I have found that when someone disagrees with me, they resort to petty insults and condescension. Thanks

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    But I would like to expand on a point I made earlier.

    It seems to me that Ebonics arose out of the way that blacks talked in this country when they were slaves. The white man didn't allow his slaves to get an education, therefore, the slaves never learned how to speak "properly". Soon, Slavery was abolished. But blacks were still severely oppressed and uneducated. But whites were glad and wanted to keep them as uneducated as possible in order to "keep them down". It seems that whites did whatever they could to prevent blacks from getting educated because they knew that once blacks got smart, they wouldn't stand for that shit no more.
    At any rate, I think that on a large scale, whites still want to keep blacks poor, uneducated, and segregated. And Ebonics is just a sign of the lack of education and oppression that whites have put on them.
    Sorry if this seems a little scattered, I'm sitting in a loud busy coffee shop with lots of distractions. Basically what I am trying to say is that Ebonics is just another way that the white man has kept the black man down. Ebonics is a dialect that arose out of slavery and oppression, and continuing to speak it, in a sense, keeps one in that mind set of being less intelligent and inferior.
    GAH So many distractions!!! Am I making sense?
     
  22. CutsieMarie89 Zen Registered Senior Member

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    People who speak ebonics don't normally consider it another langauge because its just English to them and in a sense it is, just a different dialect. Ebonics is really just a mixture of different dialects that can be found in the South. Blacks that don't live in the South speak differently than those that do. Most sections of the United States have different dialects of speech and accents. I did not know that I was using a slightly different dialect than what is standard english until very recently. I believe Ebonics is related to stupidity and ignorance because just about everything that black people do is related to stupidity and ignorance. The people who speak Ebonics are not stupid they choose to talk and act a certain way. They can stop if they want, but they don't want to, but thats their decision to perpetuate the stereotype.
     
  23. skaught The field its covered in blood Valued Senior Member

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    Thats kind of how I feel. They seem to get upset when people think they are stupid, or treat them like they are stupid, yet, they aren't doing anything to show that they are smart.

    Its like they are bringing it upon themselves.
     

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