I Ain’t Changin’ Nottin’ Fa Nobody!

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Photo by Christina Morillo on Pexels.com

Well, well, welcome back everyone! Spring break was more of a high-speed week instead of a break. But you know what? I’m glad it was. A couple of weeks ago I wanted to give up what I was trying to do for my thesis and start a new topic. I was face to face with an issue that I did not know anything about, the scholars behind it, or the history of it. I was being asked questions from family members that I couldn’t answer and were given answers and opinions from them that I didn’t even ask for. My professor told me to keep going with it. Reluctantly, I did. I doubted myself. Was I smart enough to handle a topic like this? What did I get myself into? Well, this post is to happily tell you that I have hit the jackpot. I opened the door to not only a topic but another world that I can never return back to earth. (Sorry for the mushy-gushy stuff.)

I have gathered so much information and notes from the readings I have been doing that I could not fit it into this post. I would have to make five posts. For time’s sake, I’ll put the links to the different documents of notes I have created for each reading at the end of this blog under the section “Documents: Thesis Notes.” I also have notes on YouTube videos and a documentary as well! I am also proud of myself because it’s been a long time since my mind has been able to think in this way. Creating new ideas and connecting points to readings and my own experiences. After doing some more reading and research, these were the ideas that came to my head, which, I think, is formulating my Burning Question.

  • Why choose between African American Vernacular English and Standard English? Why pick Standard English over African American Vernacular English? What are the benefits (if any)? What’s the consequence?: Losing your identity. (Thought about while reading The Language of Identity by Sonja L. Lanehart)

 

  • White society standard-proper or “Standard English.” Reality: You’ll never reach the white society standard no matter how proper you speak, you’ll always be black. Instead of trying to tear away something that is going to be part of you anyway, just embrace it and learn that there is a deep and enriched history behind it. It’s not just a bunch of words put together that makes no sense. You take away that, you take away a part of not only you but your ancestors and the black community. (Thought about while watching Nikki Giovanni and James Baldwin: A Conversation (1971): YouTube Video)

 

  • Sometimes I hear other people speaking “improperly” who are not African American and for the most part, they are not as criticized or ridiculed for it. And if they are, it’s kind of a slap on the wrist, but for black people, it’s a slap in the face.

 

  • Sometimes black English has no words. It’s more than just sounding improper. The way I speak will not be the sole reason or the main reason why I won’t land a job or be successful in the professional world. Hair, skin color, names, money, class, status, all of these other things have more weight to whether or not I am accepted in a particular profession, school, academic setting, etc. than the way I speak. You can’t just say, “Speaking black will not land you a job.” That makes absolutely no sense. I don’t have to open my mouth for a white person to look at me or my name and judge me and not give me whatever they want to give me merely because I am black. People will judge you and automatically think you know less than you do just because of your skin color. So if that is the case, I say accept the way you speak and stop putting down people who do.

 

  • Question: What are the consequences when you remove your language as a black person? My answer: You lose your identity, you lose a part of your history, you lose that sense of community and culture…you lose your blackness. Mind you, my answer is not to say that every single black person in America speaks the same way. However, I am hurt when I hear people say that when black people talk “ghetto” or “improper” then they “make us all look bad,” etc. Even a black person who speaks Standard English will still sing R&B the way it is, which is cutting off the ings at the end of words. That’s not improper, it’s artistic. When you discredit the black language, you are disproving your grandparents, their parents, music, history, art, international connections, movies, television, poetry, literature, and much more! You are cutting the cord to something that belongs to you, and instead of embracing it, you are trying to not only get rid of it, but you’re throwing it in the garbage to be turned into such a negative aspect of the American culture.

Now, I know that Dr. Zamora is going to have my fine tune these ideas more, but I believe I am more grounded with this topic than I was two months ago. After the break, I also had to start thinking about how I am going to put my thesis into a form, which is my methods section. Back in November, when I first started becoming interested in this topic, I was in North Carolina for a funeral. My brother, father, Nana, and Papa stayed with my Aunt Jesse (who is my Papa’s sister). We were sitting around the kitchen table, and I was fascinated with something. I started to pay attention to the way they were speaking. Specifically my grandparents and Aunt Jesse. People who speak Standard English will believe they are not talking correctly. However, putting aside the fact that they all have Southern accents, they were, in fact, speaking African American Vernacular English or Black English.

This is what I heard my entire life. This is how I picked up my own accent and way of speaking. Even the laughs, hand gestures, body movements, all of that is Black English! I want to document or record myself and my family sitting around the table and talking. After church on Sunday at dinner or when we’re all hanging out. There is a very beautiful rhythm when we are speaking together that I want to capture the rawness of that. On the other end of that spectrum, I also want to record myself in a setting outside of the comfort of my home. Such as work, school, or in front of my professors and classmates. I want to capture how wonderful and actually better it is when a person knows how to codeswitch and speak more than one dialect. (Just an idea!)

Last night I was talking to one of my classmates after class, and I asked her how she was doing since we haven’t spoken all semester. The conversation went like this:

Me: “Hey girl, what’s up? How are you doing? We haven’t really talked in a while.

Her: “Girl, I be stressin’!” 

Simple conversation right? We laughed after she said that because I understood her! Now, in Standard or “proper” English, this is what she said, “I am under a lot of stress.” Even while typing her sentence in the blog, a red line came under “I.” The system wanted me to say, “I am stressing” or “I will be stressing.” This was me speaking my dialect to someone else who speaks that dialect. I felt comfortable. I didn’t have to try too hard to think about what I’m going to say next. I also did not have to be concerned about whether or not she understood me or if I understood her. Now, in the classroom setting, we both speak Standard English. (She does more than I do actually.) But the class was over, and we knew that we had the green light to code switch into our natural dialect.

Also, I attempted to write another proposal, which I already sent out. I can’t wait to receive feedback on it because this one is definitely more developed than the first one.

I am still studying and researching, but I am ready for some methods and writing! (I think) Here are the documents of notes and also if you want to listen to the videos from my family in NC, I put a private YouTube link below so you can listen and enjoy!

See you all tomorrow!

Documents: Thesis Notes

Sonja Lanehart: The Language of Identity

Lisa Delpit: Other People’s Children

Nikki Giovanni & James Baldwin: A Conversation

Key Words/Phrases/Other Notes

Talking Black in America Documentary Notes

Video Links

Nikki Giovanni and James Baldwin Video

NC Family Conversations 1

NC Family Conversations 2

NC Family Conversations 3

NC Family Conversations 4

NC Family Conversations 5

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