I came across an article written by one of Babbel’s writers regarding the moral dilemma of AAVE (African American Vernacular English) usage by people outside of the black community. As a person who natively speaks AAVE, the main issue I took with the article is that the writer is not black.



Since when do non-black people get to decide whether or not black culture—MY CULTURE—is being appropriated? Since when do non-black people, get to offer their “expert” opinion on a culture that is not even theirs? Did I miss the memo? I really wish I wouldn’t have, because I sure do have a message for the person who wrote it [the memo]. If you’re not black, you don’t get to police appropriate usage of AAVE inside OR outside of the community. The end.

But just in case you are wondering why I feel so strongly about it, AAVE is more than just the origin of popular slang. Slang that is often overused AND OVERUSED OUT OF CONTEXT at that.  NOT TO MENTION they [people outside of the community] usually take the credit for “creating” terms that already existed in our language for quite some time. You know, before they "discovered" it. In my opinion, AAVE is an amazing English-based creole language that we as black people speak. In fact, it’s so amazing that AAVE even has regional dialects within itself. Black people up north have a completely different accent, set of colloquialisms, idioms and general way of speaking compared to black people down south or even in the Midwest. As a person from up north who later moved down south, I can attest to this! Another reason I find AAVE amazing, is because it is proof positive of our resiliency as a people. Why? Our ancestor’s naturally acquired version of language is now our language. 

You're probably thinking, what do you mean our ancestor’s naturally acquired version of language? Well, in the absence of formal education during the slavery and Jim Crow eras, many of our ancestors acquired language naturally, based solely off of oral communication with those around them (depending on the era and location, it could have been slave masters, overseers or other slaves, for example). Keep in mind, that formal education (language arts) rarely, if ever, ensued for black people. Language Arts is fundamental to improving oral and written communication with the introduction of grammar rules. As a result, many of us spoke a version of English that was different from the “standard”. SIDE NOTE: By the way, what is "standard English" exactly? Another article for another day... Naturally acquired language without formal education is decidedly different from “standard language”, as the knowledge of the prevailing grammar rules is often absent. An example of this would be the lack of subject-verb agreement in our [AAVE] language. I’ve been known to say things like “they be doing that” or “them people is crazy”, etc., which according to “standard English”, is incorrect because the subjects do not agree with the verbs.

Nevertheless, with this language, we were able to communicate with EACH OTHER. We were able to use this language to search, find and fight for freedom as a unit. We passed this language down to our offspring. Our language has survived two eras (the slavery era and Jim Crow), which is why I see it as a testament to our strength.

But now that we’ve taken a deeper look at AAVE, why it is so important to our [black people’s] culture and what role it namely plays in our history, let’s get back to that message that I have for each and every non-black person that thinks they have a right to decide why and how AAVE can be used: YOU DON’T HAVE THE RIGHT! AND YOU BET NOT USE IT!

Point blank, period. This is something that is so intertwined with the essence of our existence. The thought that you have a right to police or partake in something so intimate and personal to us, simply because you think it’s cool, is quite frankly disgusting.  

Bottom line, if you’re not black, do not use AAVE past, present or future. Don’t “sis” me, don’t pronounce “thing” as “thang”, and last but not least, do not say the N word. Ever. Nunca. Nie. Jamais. Do. Not. Do. It.

Stay in your lane.




Xoxo,

Language Bae

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