I have written about how my speech was the primary thing that labeled me an oreo in my Black community. I don’t think I did more than acknowledge that is origin is solely based in that. I told you how that insult influenced my decision to change colleges before I graduated but I really want to talk about speech today.
I have always been attacked on the way I talk. If it wasn’t the speed of my thoughts is was the way I talked. I never saw what was wrong with it since I thought I was pretty smart and was encouraged to share my thoughts on occasion. I guess it is that on occasion thing that is the stickler in this essay. See, I don’t mind talking fast but I equally don’t like to stick out because of it. I loathe getting in front of someone to talk about something and they stop listening to me. I am personally okay with that now and embrace my data dumping mentality. That is a part of my personality now. It is not going away. But growing into my personality traits, that is the goals of looking at speech in this essay.
My best friend was raised in Germany. Unlike me, who gathered my standard American English from reading books, the best friend acquired it on the ARMY base where there was only one vernacular spoken. When she returned to the States, her speech, along with her sexually liberal ideas, stained her speech as being exclusive to being a White person ideal. This idea, that one’s primary speech pattern is tied to one’s race and to acquire a new one or one not matching your race is equated to wanting to emulate the majority race is not a new thing. It is a remnant of the slave mentality when education was exclusive to the oppressors. That idea still being parroted in the Black community is one of the many by-products of internalized racism that continue to afflict the growth of the community.
I remember when my best friend told me of an incident in a McDonalds' with her young kids. A patron of the establishment complimented her children speaking with Standard American English. She wanted to fire back in African American Vernacular English to mock the patron’s clearly racist compliment. It made me think of Ms. Sofia from The Color Purple and the Hell Naw Scene in that movie. My best friend did not punch this patron but I almost wish she did. It is the mismanagement of American cultures that we look at one variant of English as the dominant way of speech when we should, as a country that invites other cultures and creeds to co-exist comfortably, to embrace the many variants of English.
I love English. It was the only language given to me to express myself. It is how I am able to write these essays. It is the medium that allows me to explore witchcraft. There is nothing wrong with my speech pattern. But because I lack the exposure to obtain an African American Vernacular English, I am tarnished. My Blackness is deemed questionable to Black people that hold both variants in their head and have the ability to code-switch. While these people mock me, I had to fight between confusion, misplaced shame, and pure jealousy. Why jealously? I believe Americans should be trilingual at least. That idea puts me in the minority.
What my people fail to realize the power of one or more languages allows you to communicate with more than one kind of people. I am slightly limited with my chosen language but I pass because of my skin tone. Language is powerful. Language is love. Language is daily spell work. I can not go back to the ships that brought my people over here to bring the languages of Hausa, Yoruba or Igbo that influenced the African American Vernacular English that we have today. In my isolation and subsequent bullying of my own people, I have lost access to our English, our contribution to the evolution of the English language. And I hate them for it.
What I hate more is that this idea that White people own a language is still a thing for my people. We as a people have a value that is not inherently based on the values of White standards. And as they parrot these restrictive belief systems, wanting to be better than the White, heteronormative society, we should be embracing our own senses of self and understanding our inherent cultural wealth. We should not be comparing ourselves to anyone but ourselves. No one is better than the other.
But that is another topic for another essay.