I’m inconsolable at the notion that I hardly paid homage to my heritage in all my years of adulthood, because I was too immersed in the habitual need to construct perfect sentences in English, and how that supremeness ridicules my present disposition of blaming the English for paralyzing a robust nation, that didn’t need deadly interference, but ended up succumbing to the oppression of Whiteness as the fateful compromise.
This is a very important conversation we don’t have enough. I’ll never forget my mother (who was a city employee in the deep south) taught us TWO languages/tongues. One was the King’s English, the language we were taught in school, the one that would open all the White doors, and make our lives supposedly easier — then there was our home language (now called Ebonics). I grew up with my family folks hailing from Charleston, SC (where the Gullah culture, language and dialect is still prominent) and other parts of the low country where there is a long history in slavery/sharecropping. With that history came a language.
My mom taught me the significance and importance of our home language (some folks call it Black talk, jive, Ebonics, poor grammar). It was the language we spoke so White folks wouldn’t know what we were talking about…because they tried to control everything.
Sometimes in the old days we needed code to discuss really important things going on that would harm us (like the police are looking for victims). My mom always told us to speak our own “language” at home, in our communities, and around family, and speak English (White-lol) outside of the house.
I am so happy she did that.
As I’ve gotten older, I noticed no one other culture gave up their language/culture during the assimilation process except Black people. We have a rich history of creating our own languages that White people have always hated (they love now because they make money from hip-hop/rap). Even Black folks get upset when we speak broken English, which I’ve never understood.
I tell people who criticize our language (to include Blacks) I ain’t English. I’m an African- American from South Carolina. I’m a descendant of slaves, and I will speak the ever-evolving language of my ancestors until I die. There is no reason for me to assume the King’s English as my native language because there is no benefit for me to do so. The only beneficiaries are White people who believe all things brown should submit to Whiteness benefit from us speaking English. We must learn their language/culture, they have no interest in “cultural immersion.” People of Color must assimilate, lose our culture, and language. These are things I’ve never been willing to give up.
The language police is another form of White Supremacy, and too many people of color go along with it without fully understanding what they are co-signing. English will never be the only language I speak in America, as I understand my history and our culture. People can call it barbaric, embarrassing, broken English, or lowly educated. I don’t care.
I’m resisting White Supremacy in every way I can. Not making English my native language is one of the most personal/intimate ways I can resist it. Thanks for talking about English and connecting it to assimilation. It’s time we talk about it. Great job!