“To open your mouth ? You have confessed your parents, your youth, your school, your salary, your self-esteem, and alas, your future “. After reading the two essays, “From Outside, In” by Barbara Mellix and “If Black English Isn’t a Language Then Tell Me, What Is? ” by James Balwin, I came to realize a few things one of them being that the way we speak, is a means of identifying somebody’s culture and background. Much in how a license can tell a person your name, age, were you live etc. a person can tell your race, what kind of education you have and were you are going in life just by hearing you talk.
When slavery began, a time in human history that I assume many people would rather forget, the U. S. would remove black people from their homes in Africa and bring them here to America. The slave masters would then teach these slaves just enough English so they could do the work they were told. The blacks, knowing only a few words in English, filled the holes in there vocabulary with word of their own. This language came to be what we now know as “black English”. This form of English was looked down upon as Mellix explains in her essay.
As Mellix states in her essay “black English” was reserved only for the closest family members and friends, “? transplanted relatives and one-time friends who came from the city for the weddings, funerals, and vacations. And the whites. To these we spoke standard English2”. As Mellix elaborates in her essay she tells of how she would “put on airs2”, as in use “standard English”. Even when white people didn’t speak correct “standard English” she would, “It did not matter that Toby had not spoken grammatically correct English. He was white and he could speak as he wished. I had something to prove.
Toby did not “. I find it extremely sad that even her own mother would correct her English, “”Aint” my mother would yell at me when I used the term in the presence of “others. ” “You know better than that. ” And I would hang my head in shame and say the “proper” word2″. When I grew up, my mother would always support my individuality. She would never make me feel “shame” or any less because I was being myself. It must have been hard on Mellix to be told that your language and the language of your forefathers was not “proper” by you own mother. I believe that learning a language is fine for the right reasons.
Expanding your knowledge or going to a different country, these are both legitimate reasons to learn a language. Learning a language because you will be ridiculed is not a proper reason. As Fanon stated in Mellix’s essay to speak is, “? above all to assume a culture, to support the weight of a civilization2”. So what Fanon suggest is that when you take on a language it is to become part of the culture almost to change your identity, and I agree with that. I find when I meet somebody who can speak multiple languages I look at them with more respect than I would if they only spoke one.
Not to say I would look down on a person who only speaks one language, I just find it admirable for somebody who would take the time to learn a new language. Throughout this essay you may have noticed quotations around the terms “black English” and “standard English”. This is because I find it ridiculous to split English into two categories. When an Australian speaks and we find it hard to understand them we don’t call it “aussie English”, or when a person from England comes and we find their English hard to understand we don’t call there language “brit English”.
You see throughout the world we will encounter many different accents and slangs, and just because black people are speaking with different slang we decide to create a name for it. I think this is pathetic. If we are ever going to become truly accepting of others people races and cultures we need to stop trying to label people. “If Black English Isn’t a Language Then Tell Me, What Is? ” ? James Baldwin “From outside, In” ? Barbara Mellix
Courtney from Study Moose
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