Sunday blogging against racism #43–“ebonics”, Faux news, etc.

ugh, ugh, ugh. 

I don’t think I ever watch Faux news (except occasionally my local version), but I hear enough about it across the blogosphere to know that it’s a bunch of crap that I don’t WANT to watch. 

However, as you may know, I’m pretty passionate about making sure that people understand that Black English (whether you want to call it by the greatly maligned, mocked, and misunderstood term “ebonics”, or use the more descriptive phrase, “black English vernacular”) is NOT merely a matter of ignorance, but is an actual dialect with its own grammatical rules and structure. So when I see a black man on Faux News whose stated mission is to de-ignorantize (there’s some Lorraine-bonics for you!) those poor, “ignorant” inner-city black kids, it just boils my biscuits. 

Don’t get me wrong . . . it’s not the fact that he’s teaching these young people to cope in the predominant culture that bothers me . . . it’s his ATTITUDE about it, and his obvious lack of understanding of linguistics (not to mention history!) that makes me angry. 

In the video linked above (I was so pissed off that I didn’t even want to embed it), we hear at least one young black woman buying into the lie as she says,  “in the area I grew up in . . .  we don’t talk proper English”. Way to teach people to hate themselves for a language pattern that has a long and complex history that can be traced back to slavery and before! 

The Faux News piece even conjures up Bill Cosby, in effect implying that McClendon is getting flack, just like Cosby does, for trying to improve the lot of ‘his people’.

did I mention, “UGH!!!!!!!!!!”??? Field, (who I have to thank for calling my attention to this) would definitely have a name for Mr. McClendon (and perhaps the rest of his family, although I’m not sure what to make of the greater (and seemingly very random) “corporation”).

It’s surely no coincidence that I just heard a very wise man whom I greatly admire talking this week about the language that white North Americans use to label languages and cultural traditions that are not their own. “North Americans have ‘ethnicities’, he said, “whereas Africans have ‘tribes’; North Americans speak a “language”, whereas Africans” (and surely this applies to native American people groups across our own continent as well!) “have ‘dialects’.”

If you want to know how I feel about ebonics BEV, then you should read this. In case you’re lazy, here’s an excerpt:

Labov‘s point was that speakers of BEV weren’t simply making random grammatical mistakes when they spoke. They were following rules that their community of speakers had developed, and which they had learned from being immersed in it. What they were speaking, he argued, was not a flawed and failed attempt at standard English, but a particular version of English that was just as expressive and fluent as standard.

Better yet, watch this video . . . it will cleanse your heart and soul of the BS that Mr. Garrard “H.N.*” McClendon is dishing out . . . 

(*yeah, I don’t feel like I’m allowed to use that term, and you know that I can barely say that word to begin with, but hopefully you get the idea.) 

Sunday blogging against racism #16–40 years later, we’re in worse shape than before.

So I’m reading Jonathan Kozol’s Letters to a Young Teacher   and it’s absolutely amazing . . . but this one chapter in particular, about the reversals of the gains made during the civil rights era, really struck me, and I knew I’d found my Sunday fodder . . . here are a few quotes:

         The percentage of black children who now go to integrated public schools has fallen to its lowest level since the death of Dr. King in 1968. In New York and California, seven out of every eight black students presently attend a segregated school. (pg. 77)

[One African-American teacher in New York] “refused to give his kids a set of lesson plans he’d been assigned for what he called “The Famous [Selma] March Curriculum.” Instead, he said he’d posted on his classroom walls all the stuff that he could find about the racist education system in which he was working now.
                 “You see,” he said, “to the very poor black children that I teach . . . , it doesn’t matter much what bridge you may have stood on thirty years ago. They want to know what bridge you stand on now.” (pg. 83)

 I am beginning to believe that I was born for just this thing, to find that bridge and stand, and walk, and shout until I can’t shout anymore for justice for these kids.

I pray that God will point my feet in that direction.

Sunday blogging against racism #12b–The Price of Sugar

I saw this documentary yesterday–Thank GOD for the $3.50 theater, which besides being affordable (as long as you don’t want to eat anything!), is also bringing a number of documentaries into this sorry old town.

The movie was only in Grand Rapids for a few days, but I’m guessing that it will be out on video fairly soon, if it isn’t already–so add it to your NetFlix list NOW. And read more about how you can take action against this modern-day slavery (at different points in the movie, it is referred to as “almost” slavery or “quasi-slavery”–BULLSHIT! There’s nothing “quasi” about it!)  that is taking place right in our own hemisphere, and with generous subsidies from the US Government.

 One of my friends expressed concern that this documentary would hold up the “white man” as the hero, and to some extent that is the case, but more than that, it seems to me that (at least in one pivotal scene near the end of the movie), it’s the CHURCH–God’s people standing together–that comes across as the TRUE hero.

But when you see it, you can let me know what you think . . .