“(read: after years of learning the hard way)”

Nope. Fifty years ago I was a teenager with long hair and was hitchhiking. Some slightly inebriated rednecks gave me a ride. They had a menacing air and asked me if I was one of them protestor hippies. “Naw, that ain’t mah style” I shot back in perfect Redneck English. Code switching is natural for everybody.

“Black English follows patterns and basic rules that should elevate it to the status of American lingua franca.”

You misunderstand the role of language in culture. People don’t analyze the linguistic sophistication of Black English; everybody, black and white, use it as a cultural badge. When black people speak Black English, they are identifying themselves as part of a unique culture separate from the mainstream culture of America. When anybody else hears black people speaking Black English, they take that as a declaration that “I’m not like you. I’m different.”

Making that kind of declaration is a good way to train yourself to think independently, but it also paints a target on your back. When I was in high school, I was so disturbed by the intense social pressures that I tucked my pants legs into my socks. It looked stupid, but it was a simple way of declaring “I’m not like you. I’m different.” And I got beat up for it. It has nothing to do with racism; it’s about declaring yourself an outsider.

[“They speak Spanish, we don’t,”]

Yep, the mainstream culture speaks English, and people have a very strong sense of identification with their language. As a Frenchman, I’m sure that you’re acutely aware of how much identity French people place in their language. We English speakers abscond with all sorts of great French words phrases (sacre bleu! deja vu, chic, joie de vivre, and on and on), but the French contemptuously reject our many attempts at compensation. As a Frenchman, I don’t think you’re in any position to criticize speakers of standard English for resenting Black English. 😀

“When a language elevated to the political stage is met with laughter and an endless stream of jokes, or, whether it is true or not, with the idea that it’s only a weapon used to win over the ones who speak the same language, you show them that their culture is worth nothing.”

Not at all. People are proud of their language and resent any attempts to compromise it. All people are. This behavior isn’t racist, sexist, or other-ist. It’s just human nature.

Master of Science, Physics, 1975. Computer Game Designer. Interactive Storytelling. www.erasmatazz.com

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