As posted to the United Front-Civil Rights Organization:
posted by Lex Scott
When white people or teenagers in general use it, they are still using AAVE (African American Vernacular English). It’s not only used by African Americans anymore, since our culture is mixed, and (especially suburban teenage male) whites were sold Black culture in pop culture (namely hip hop in the late 80s), and people who are not Black/African American feel a right to co-opt it. Also, I think since AAVE is an American dialect, Americans in general (of all colors and creeds) might use it sometimes, in certain settings–whether an authentic way they learned to talk or not, a later adopted dialect. I agree it can make people sound “uneducated,” but that’s because of race (and class) hegemony pushing whiteness=rightness in education.
The responses to the original anonymous Tumblr post point out that there is a grammar system, i think it’s also called a pattern of syntax, to “You [delete to-be conjugation] + article + noun object-of-sentence” or “You [delete to-be conjugation] + adjective.” And that in fact it *matches* the grammatical system (or pattern of syntax?) of Standard American English (SAE), or “proper” English.
Of course in actual life, in reality, at a job interview or in a professional situation, yeah, it sounds uneducated or is considered unprofessional–but that’s because the Anglo dialect (SAE) is the one given clout. It’s also why AAVE is termed a “vernacular,” language spoken in daily life, colloquially.
African American Vernacular dialect functions with the same if not more complexity as Standard American English.**
See, even though AAVE (and other dialects) actually have grammar or syntax patterns = rules…they’re devalued simply because they’re not the norm (SAE) that white Americans developed for English, by natural random language evolution and on purpose, especially for education and for professional speaking.
Ask yourself: How does it sound when someone speaks with a British cockney accent? Educated or uneducated?
If you are a person who’s not African American and/or did not learn to speak AAVE growing up, do you ever say phrases like, “Where you going?” or even “Where ya going?” These also omit the “are,” the to-be conjugation (though I don’t know if it is happening in the same way linguistically!).
And would you say this, would you speak like this in a job interview or in a professional setting?^^
**African American vernacular dialect functions with the same if not more complexity as Standard American English:
Because English is largely lacking in the subjunctive and other general or what-if verb tenses (cases? Linguists please help me out here!), or doesn’t have a different-sounding word or verb conjugation for the subjunctive or a certain verb tense, Africans who were brought here retained these tenses from their African languages. For instance, saying “She be…” + adjective or + -ing verb, using the infinitive auxiliary, or helping, verb is actually from Yoruba tribe language structure! And from some other African languages, if I remember right what I’ve learned. And it’s a structure **more complex** than that of English! It makes for an additional verb tense. English is missing this kind of verb tense and murky with others: for instance, describing a chronological spot on a timeline that’s distinctly in the present but also a lasting, though undefined, length or range–so when Africans from many different tribes were learning English, suddenly forcibly put into English-speaking American environments as slaves, people or a single person from one tribe mixed up with people from all different tribes who spoke different languages, and communicating, especially learning some English was a matter of life and death, these verb tenses / sentence structures stuck around! The African language infusions clarify the English or add to it.
(Linguists, please correct, if the infinitive in “pronoun + infinitive” structure is not an infinitive auxiliary!)
^^…What if in your job, and maybe in your life in all aspects, you never have to use “professional” speak…? When African Americans and other race people of color, and poor whites and light-skinned people before the category of “white” was so omnipresent as the norm, were kept out of “professional” jobs and business and life, there was no need to learn or adapt to “professional” English of the dominant educated class/race/group. So in that sense of course it is just as “professional” to use whatever dialect you speak–or even a different language or what’s called a “pidgin” (mixture of two languages into a business/commerce dialect) or a “creole”! If you *are* a business person, say, a butcher or owner of a butchery, and you, say, talk to the German shepherd (no pun intended nor offense meant!) to get lamb and the Jewish Rabbi who speaks Hebrew to get Kosher meat and first-generation Italian immigrants and Irish immigrants, etc., will you speak perfect King’s English or Standard American English of the year 18-something-or-other or the early 1900s? If you are an African American who until segregation mostly was only interacting to do business with other African American people, except maybe sometimes with a few working-class People of Color and/or white, probably immigrant, people…what dialects of English would you speak?
Not racist? Hear, listen, and grasp social and race issues with the renowned author, playwright, and poet. “I don’t think we connect micro-aggressions that indicate the lack of recognition of the black body as a body to the creation and enforcement of laws.” Claudia Rankine said last fall in BOMB.
Wait, what’s a “microaggression”?? These words matter.
CITIZEN: An American Lyric divulges and dissects day-to-day, often sub-surface racism and its effects beyond the moment. Her fifth poetry book, it made history, nominated for two National Book Critics Circle Awards, for Criticism and for Poetry; it won the latter, along with the NAACP Image Award, PEN Open Book Award, and others, and is the only New York Times nonfiction bestseller of its lyric kind.
CITIZEN calls out in solidarity if you’ve ever been run into by an armored tank of racial marginalization or been caught in a nasty traffic jam of intersectionality. Rankine calls you to action if you give a hoot or are susceptible to participating in systemic racism. Cultural theorist Lauren Berlant described in the BOMB interview, “Citizenship involves metabolizing in the language of your flesh what you call the ‘ordinary’ injury of racist encounter.” Rankine’s prose details scene by the millisecond, along with internal reaction, piling on inevitable, immediate, smacking social resonance in fell swoop after fell swoop. Each scene rounds out with that “metabolizing” as it happens, or as its consequence plays out within black bodies and minds constrained by white hegemony and apathy.
Los Angeles’ Fountain Theater produced an adaptation in August, spotlighting the versatility of CITIZEN and Rankine’s multi-form and -genre work. Her dialogue and descriptions came to life on stage particularly smoothly: The ensemble cast rove among different characters, black actors facing white actors, playing out scenes of surprise verbal, contextual complicity or attack and slow-motion, time-stopped response, outburst, or restraint. Sitting, watching in your red theater seat became complacency; cringing and squirming in it were not enough.
In interactions of daily and professional life, how can white people stop colluding to enact racism, even if unintentionally? How can all people not commit and not accept racial microaggression? Recognition of such words and acts is a start.
Review of TRUTH VALUES
Gioia De Cari completes a Master’s degree in math, at M.I.T., nonetheless, in just over an hour. She now performs with exactly enough dramatic flair and even some “spicy,” operatic singing, having turned from proofs to stage her wit; that is, from scholarly pursuit of logic to write, act, and tour her solo show. TRUTH VALUES traipses through that most illogical of tales, blunt sexism altering the female scholar’s narrative. Male chauvinist mathematicians (and other nerds) gender-discriminate or sexualize her at almost every turn, at odds with her Ph.D education. The UI WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) spearheaded bringing the autobiographical Best Solo Show winner to the Englert Monday night. De Cari delivers Lazer-carved characters who lecture her seminars or jive around the “party office” as TAs so that you forget only one actor plays them all. Guts, gusto, and unashamed femininity through her entire intense graduate career and teaching fellowship at Harvard add up to absolute, real theatricality.
An Oleanna fresh from across campus, minus the taint of Mamet’s mysoginy but unfortunately greater than or equal to that story’s professor’s, TRUTH VALUES brings quality to quantity in accents, the drive of the young mathematician and performer, and obectivity, via succinct dialogue and sometimes conjured costumes. The bare-minimal set exemplifies De Cari’s virtually lone navigation “Through M.I.T.’s Male Math Maze,” as she has subtitled the show. Directed with punch and elegance, award-winning classics director Miriam Eusebio (member of the historic feminist and LGBTQ collective Wow Cafe Theater and founder of the Intentional Theater) accelerates De Cari as young Gioia and her former, mathier colleagues and company to effortless synthesis, rendering obtuse where the acting ends and the directing begins. The lighting by Chris Dallos of Unexpected Theater casts precise environments, not too harshly but with no pretty ivy gobo.
If you missed the show, calculate how long it will take you to leave point A at a minimum of 60 miles per hour and arrive at point B, the next tour destination of TRUTH VALUES, as soon as possible.
Sept. 21, 2015
Love of Reading, Lore, and Research
Dear Mayor de Blasio,
I lived in New York in 2001, and had to leave when the Towers fell. I have always been looking forward to returning. My family is also from New York.
One of my wonderful experiences while in school in the City was going to the NYPL. I have always been looking forward to going back.
It gave me such peace and such a sense of the strength of knowledge and of connection to learning and history to be in that library. It gave me a sense of action and I could feel my presence through its presence, with the hustle and bustle of searching and reading, a quietude and a reverence New York style.
The Mid-Manhattan NYPL branch fosters connection to history and to the power of the pursuit of knowledge for all. It was always my favorite place Midtown to spend time. Amidst all the glitz and tourism and high-fallutin’ advertisement and money of Midtown, the Library with the lions stands for but more importantly IS, physically is, the people’s center of the strength of knowledge, particularly in tangible form. To be able to sit amongst the stacks in the middle of Manhattan gives a sense of solace, a respite, a reassurance of one’s equality and ability, necessary here more than anywhere.
For these reasons, it was always my favorite thing on 42nd Street, and I am even a theater person.