I was 14 when I learned that if you are young, black, and smart people would watch your every move. Which was and still is creepy. They wanted to know if you were a bad egg or an egg with potential? If you had potential then they could feed into your resources out of poverty. That means walking, dressing, and talking like a professional. In my house Ebonics was banned. No matter how southhhhern or inner city we were. There was no ain't, ta, coulda, woulda, meh, or any other slurred slang. "Annunciate.", my mother would say.
She made one mistake. She had me read writers from the Harlem Renaissance. Cherubs of rich cultural language that gave dialect and sound to people. They sounded human, flawed yet perfect. I became absorbed in those words. I had grown up reading Emily Dickinson, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and Mark Twain. British of course was different, but to write the way Americans talk... Woah. But I didn't dare speak it. That was not allowed in my house. "Annunciate.", my mother would gently remind me.
"You sound white.", said any black person I came in contact with. But people were watching. "I speak proper English.", I'd sneer. Okay so maybe I was a snob. But seriously EVERYONE in the hood, my family, and anyone black talked about my dialect. It was whitewashed. My mother saw it as unprofessional (But the title? I'm getting there.) and in many ways I'm grateful. I wouldn't have such a appreciation or fascination with languages and dialects without her. Hence why I'm a playwright.
I began to speak Ebonics in highschool. My friends wanted me to mimic them to see if I'd sound blacker. So I began to test it out. At first only at school, but it would slip in the backpack of my tongue and follow me home. I started using slang. "They were hella quiet." My mother all to quick, "Excuse me?" "It's not a curse word mom... I'm just trying ta say..." "Ta? Annunciate. That is borderline cursing, don't use it." I cherished the moments I could use Ebonics. To me, it was like I knew a new language. It also meant I didn't stand out in a community of black people. There wasn't many opportunities to parade my good English in front of white folks when I went to a predominantly black school.
Then something amazing happened. We studied the Harlem Renaissance in English class. The writers knew how to write and speak proper English. They used slang and dialects to authenticate their characters or works to emmulate real life. I became determined after that to learn all the rules in the english language to break them. That way if I used Ebonics it was stylistic not because I didn't know any better.
However what I've learned is that you can speak Ebonics and be professional. People have a negative cognition of people that speak Ebonics. However, black professionals know their business no matter how they speak. One of my fondest memories was sitting in English class and having a male classmate in perfect articulation answer a question saying nothing, but it sounded good. Our classmates all nodded and agreed. A discussion broke out. I shook my head, smiled at him, leaned over, and said, " You didn't have the answer did you? You said nothing and they all went with it" "Not at all, but if I use a excellent vocabulary no one notices." I loved it cause when your young and black you sometimes fake it to make it until you don't have to. We may not have the answer in class, but we study hard till the test comes only to ace it.
Meaning that just because they sound professional doesn't mean they are. Vice Versa. You just have to give people a shot. You don't know what they know until you know, you know?
Jump Rope Sis
Fitness. Life. Art. Travel.