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I Don't "Speak White"

Throughout my life, the phrase “speaking white” has been used to describe the way I talk. I am an African-American, but they say I “speak white.”

Since elementary school I have been teased for the way I talk.  It used to hurt to know that I wasn't accepted by my race.  I didn't understand what they meant by “talking white.” Worse yet, I was light-skinned.  I was not accepted because of these things. I just did not fit in. I found myself hating my voice and the complexion of my skin.

Because of those two key components that say “I just can't be black,” I was constantly asked if one of my parents was white.   I never had anything against Caucasians at all. But if anyone asked if I was mixed I would quickly say “no” and get a really bad attitude.  The reality is I am mixed. Somewhere down the line I do have white in me. A lot of people can trace some white in them if they look deep enough. But to them my complexion and my voice were flags stating “I‘m clearly not black”.

I was not accepted as black among my friends. The language I used was just “too proper” to be “black”.  That's just sad.  It's just hurtful to think that my generation does not believe that using proper English is the way black people should be speaking. What is strange about speaking English correctly?   If I am educated, why should I speak as though I am not?

My mother is an English teacher and improper grammar was not tolerated.   It didn't matter if I was in the privacy of my own home.  I had to talk correctly or I couldn't talk at all. Even if I accidentally said something incorrectly, I had to quickly fix it before my mother had a chance to scold me. I am thankful for my mother. I hear kids my age, younger or older, saying things that are just grammatically incorrect. It's sad that some people cannot or will not use the language correctly and accept that this is the way it is and should be.

I am Black, and the way I speak is neither black nor white.   The way I speak is intelligent. I finally accept the way I talk.  All people, no matter what race they are, have the capability to speak their language correctly. When my generation realizes that it is not wise to look upon intelligent speech as a shortcoming, then maybe the practice of using poor speech will end. Here's what my African-American generation does not realize: When they say I talk white, they're stating that they themselves don't have the ability to talk proper.

[Taylor Tramell is part of the "TIME 11", a group of Detroit area high-school students working with Assignment Detroit. She is a senior at Mumford High School. For a related story by Joshua Jamerson, click here.]

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  • 1

    Your mother is raising a wise and brave daughter, Taylor.
    Those qualities will carry you far, particularly since you see what matters and look in the right direction: Ahead.
    Thanks for sharing your voice.

    • 1.1

      [ P.S. ] Your essay is especially refreshing and timely a day after Laura Berman's sad front-page tale in The Detroit News about a language-impaired Detroit Board of Education president.
      Your perspective, Tayor, is a welcome reminder of reasons for optimism.

  • 2

    I am not sure if this is purely a "black" issue. The idea of the spoken and written language was brought to the fore when Ebonics was touted as being acceptable. That evolved into the "urban" dialect that permeated certain branches of the music scene largely populated by African-Americans, and which is emulated by white youth.

    While you are correct in your premise that, "When my generation realizes that it is not wise to look upon intelligent speech as a shortcoming, then maybe the practice of using poor speech will end", it is far more reaching than your own race and, for that reason, it will not occur any time soon.

  • 3

    Taylor thank you for what you have written. Far to often we all become grammatically lazy and then one day it becomes the norm. It happen to all people of all color. Your mother did a great job with raising you to speak correctly, and that has no bearing on the color of ones skin at all, it only goes to show that you are and educated human being who uses a language correctly.

  • 4

    Taylor, you've just described my experience, right down to being rasied by educators and having a lighter skin complexion. The only difference though, is that my mother is Mexican. Therefore I am only half black, which we all know is and will never be “black enough.”

    I've been teased my entire life about my grammar. People make faces at my enunciation. Even as an adult I'll notice another black person watching me, sometimes in the work place, sometimes it's someone I'm meeting for the first time, and with a dumbfounded look they'll interrupt me while I'm speaking and say :
    “WHERE you from?”
    “Detroit” I'll answer
    “No you aint”
    With a sigh, because I know where this is going I say, “Yes I am”
    “WHERE in Detroit?!” which I can only assume means that they think I'm really from some suburb bordering the city.

    I have to prove that I was born here and that I've lived here my entire life with facts. I list the Detroit Public Schools that I've attended. I have to name the other East 7 Mile streets that surround mine. Some believe me, some don't but all of them usually ask why I speak the way I do.

    My answer usually depends on the sincerity of their question -
    My parents wouldn't let me speak any other way.
    I read lot.
    I like to be taken seriously.
    I respect myself.
    This is the way I've always talked.
    If you had paid attention in English class you'd know that this is the way you're supposed to talk too!

    It is really sad that our people see us as an anomaly instead of looking at us as the standard, not only that, but to assume that we're trying to be anything but ourselves.

    I cringe each time I see someone with a serious face in an attempt to get their point across but failing miserably with slang and horrible English.

    I'd like to thank you Taylor, for presenting such a beautiful statement.

    • 4.1

      You are very welcome. Like you said the stories are close. Constantly we are asked where are you from and what are you mixed with because of complexion and the way we speak. I love the color of my skin now and my how I talk. The way I talk just landed me a spot on the radio because I can get my point across without using slang or ebonics or whatever it is called. I am who I am and I love who I am. And Don't fret over those people who bug you about how you speak. It just shows ignorance.

    • 4.2

      Taylor, you should be proud to know that your smart, stimulating eassy is earning wide attention.
      It has kindled a lively conversation at a popular forum called DiscussDetroit!, which attracted 64 comments and 1,785 views in a day and a half (as of Staurday afternoon) at this discussion thread linking to your piece and Josh's:
      Virtually all are supportive, none attack you and most focus on your points.
      Nice impact you're having!

    • 4.3

      WOW it is now up to 151 comments. But I am not sure how to figure out the views. But wow. I am receiving feedback and a lot of different conversations are going on regarding this piece and its content. Thank you

    • 4.4

      I know the feeling and I'm all black and I have had to dumb down to be understood .

  • 5

    @ taylor,

    Please refer to my posts on Joshua's rant..I find your narrative almost but not quite as hollow and applause seeking as his..

    Sorry but your plight and tale is no different that what educated Black folks have confronted all of our lives..It is your turn now...

    Have you ever wondered why Time and other white MSM publications like to exploit your applause seeking comments?

    This theme of fostering class and intra racial divison with the Black community is a tragic theme of the white cultural legacy of our nation. I am sure your parents and other educated Black folks could enlighten and articulate these truths to you...

    I am sure you can and will continue to combat those who disrespect you for a number of reasons..I just hope your narrative will not be used and exploited by those who have a legacy of creating false wedge issues within the Black community....

    I intend to use both yours and Joshua's commentaries as examples of these tatics in my body of work..

    • 5.1

      Really? If there is any theme to be read here it's that Taylor has articulated a reality of her life (not a "false wedge") and her struggles with the causes of these struggles.

      No race can be painted completely with the same brush. There will be cleavages and divisions within any race without having to blame "white MSM publications" for them.

      You cannot exploit something that does not exist. And I highly doubt Taylor feels exploited in the first place. She had the choice to participate in this exercise or not, and the topic of her article is of her own chosing.

      Your comments sound as if from someone who is not quite happy with their own choices they've made and has willingly been marginalized by society. Taylor has a grasp of her reality and has emerged a better person with more self esteem than you seem to display.

    • 5.2

      Thrasherman: Are you that put off by anything that has to do with the white people of the world. You are such a bigot.

      Your "body of work" what is that to be, how you are a tool and any time any person of color speaks you are there to tear it all a part and say "don't conform to the (white) mans ways"

      Thank the stars above that all the black people that I know don't act like you. As a matter of fact, thank god all the people I know (of every color) don't act like you.

  • 6


    Please spare me the empty lecture and posturing you post like you are as clueless..

    Now run along and go try to make sense of your existence..

    Perhaps I day you will understand and learn to respect the seasoned reasoning I have offered to Taylor..

  • 7


    I am equally as pleased that I do not have any underdeveloped and backward white folks like you in my circles..

    Some of my best friends are white and they are nothing like you with your myopic and shallow insights..

    Truth is hallow white folks like you give and leave a bad taste and example in the minds of people of color...Of course I have encountered empty vessels like you more than I care to recall....Angry white males like you are tragically a occupational and cultural hazard that to many Black folks must live with and tolerate..

    The world has become so tacky and tawdry now...I wish I could avoid your kind but I must solider on...

    • 7.1

      I am sure that if Taylor's and Josh's parents wanted them to learn division and hatred, they would have taught it themselves.

      I'm sure the poster can't "separate out your content." Whatever that means. And explain to us what "excell" means.

  • 8

    Thrasherman, Your comments are of the uneducated and the bigoted. You are a disgrace to your race and serve to prolong discontent between the races and nothing to further the coming together.

    It is ironic that views you hold and express are the same as those that lead to the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr.


    • 8.1

      Thank you, lineosight.
      But, as her name indicates, Thrasher is doing just that-- trashing about. When children do this, they usually wind up just bruising themselves. I used to just ignore tantrums until they passed.

  • 9


    WOW..That was an angry hateful post..I guess being mentioned with MLK soften the blow a little..

    I am a disgrace to my race ..I guess I could level the same hate charge at you but what purpose does that serve

    It is apparent you cannot separate out my content from my personhood..Your need to indict me and make me a representative of Black people is truly offensive on so many levels..

    I do understand my ability to articulate unpopular but honest and candid truths and opinions makes shallow folks like you full of rage and anger..

    Please take a step away from your indictment and personal attacks on me and understand my views are reasoned and based upon experience and the ability to navigate and excell in a culture with a legacy of white racism and contempt for Black americans..

    My advice to taylor & joshua is foundational..I understand how an angry white person like you hates me giving honest adviice to our youth..

    Truth is my truths create more organic and real bridges between the races..Your angry arrogant racism does not.

  • 10

    Taylor, thank you for taking the time to reflect and share your experiences. I'd like to encourage you to continue surrounding yourself with positive people from varied backgrounds. In time, you'll find that odd comments and attacks like the ones you've described here happen far less often.

  • 11

    @ taylor

    I think the last word of your post should be "properly" or "proper english". just nitpicking :)

    • 11.1

      Exactly! Except for "proper English"

      Do you, Taylor, also react like the "White" to people speaking English with a certain accent?

    • 11.2

      The article is about speaking, not typing ;)
      I'm sure that last line is the editors fault. He's actually of a blue skin tone. Bloody blue skins... not typing gooder english!
      Ahh crap, I gave away my purple-ness. We never prose correctly. We can't type monochromatically.

    • 11.3


      I do not understand what you mean by certain accent. People have accents because they come from different places. I have no problem with accents. But if you can not talk correctly without using "slang" then I have a problem. Especially when this "slang" is used with adults.

    • 11.4

      Yes, we all are guilty of making grammatical errors at times. Listen at newscasters, you'll hear them often if your ear is so tuned as an English teacher. But I think Ms. Trammell's point is that purposely abusing the English language is socially acceptable among her peers.

  • 12

    If you're really so concerned about Time utilizing materials posted against those who post, you should just stop posting.

    Thank you for the article. It does illustrate unfortunate truths, but these stigmas are not limited to colour.
    I find it alarming that your friends would push their identity upon you in such a manner, but I'm sure that when you move on to post secondary life your circle of friends will change drastically. I'm sure you'll find more intelligent, evolved people who are not afraid of someone with a vocabulary. Who are not afraid that one day, they will no longer have a friend who speaks eloquently.

    You'll also find people like this guy who would call himself 'Thrasherman', hide behind anonymity and make catcalls at any and all who would define the stigmas that plague us as though he is the messiah of wisdom.
    Fortunately, they'll hide behind anonymity and are easily ignored.
    Where folks with a voice, a motivation and a soul will publish articles in Time, or any other large publication that is willing to print it.


  • 13

    I am a 55 year old black woman , and I have been hearing that same crap for years. My response, was to tell the person{s} that I didn't have to apologize to anyone for having an education.

  • 14

    Hey Taylor,
    I read your article and the feedback on it. I'm a 19 year old white female, and I too receive ridicule for speaking the way I was raised.
    My parents have always taught me that education is very important, and I should never have to speak lower than I have been taught in order to gain approval. In addition, they stressed that proper communication was essential to finding a decent and professional job.
    Many of my peers say things like, "I ain't", and "you is"...and they are white. Interesting enough, they seem to come from homes that are in above average school districts, yet they choose to talk in this way. I don't seem to understand why this seems to be such a big issue , especially with people within my age group, and of all races.
    I enjoyed reading the article, and being motivated to let you know about similar experiences I have had. Thanks!

  • 15

    There is so much to what you say. I am White and was raised in the South. We moved around a lot. When you move to a new place you have to learn to fit in. So .when I went up North I tried to learn to speak like them.They could still tell,so it was a problem.
    But I think your mom gave you a great gift.

    When I moved from Atlanta and heard Black people talking like I never heard a Black person talk in my life,it sounded like equality. That is why a lot of Northern Blacks do it.

    You can lean to switch back and forth to a certain extent, but In my experience speaking like Whites do up North will make them think you are more educated and smarter. This is true whether you are Black or White.

  • 16

    Trasherman is apparently the black equivalent of an ever popular conspiracy theorist stereotype from almost all movies regarding government cover-ups of aliens or anything of the sort. No one takes him seriously and the only people that can actually communicate with him in a manner that that invokes a reaction, more than a simple brush off, are equally insane conspiracy theorists.

    That being said I don't think it's a fault of African Americans that they think proper english is a negative (though to be fair, some people can come off very pretentious at times but it has more to do with tone) it's a fault with our media and education system. Glorify mentally handicapped "artists" like Soulja Boy whose every other word is made-up, and of course you're going to have kids idolize and other idiots like him.

    The education is failing the majority of low income neighborhoods and it's both the system's fault and the parents, its a vicious cycle and the only way to get out of it is by having writers like Ms. Trammell illustrate the value of a proper education and it's impact on how people will perceive you.

  • 17

    I cannot relate to the light-skinned experience since I am a dark skinned female, but I can relate to everything else. I grew up in Washington State and my family would occasionally vacation to Gainesville, FL. My cousins would make fun of me, telling me I sound white (for example I would pronounce Jennifer the way it is spelled, not Jennifuh). I even have white friends who feel the same way. Strange, but this is how I talk and I always strive to be myself. Life is too short to care about what other people think of you. If anything, sounding too education is could never be a bad thing ;)

    **Note: Basing speech on color is a tad bit ridiculous. To say someone speaks white completely negates the fact that someone black can speak intelligently.

  • 18

    It is interesting to note that the wisdom Ms. Trammell's mother instilled must have been rooted deeply. She was wise enough to ignore the self-seeking remarks of an author(?) stealthily seeking to self-promote.

    This, too, is what you will run into throughout the course of your life. Keep in mind that spoiled little children tend to "thrash" about.

  • 19

    Ms. Tramell,

    First, you wrote a very good article that illustrates how lost and confused black people, in general, are. Part of the reason that some black people say "you speak white" is because they don't know that it was blacks in Africa who created one of the first written languages, the Medu Neter (AKA Egyptian Hieroglyphs). Your “associates” unfortunately are ignorant of their grand and majestic past when blacks' essentially ruled the ancient world and laid the foundation for “good speech” and world civilization.

    One of the oldest books in the world, The Teachings of Ptahhotep, speaks to “good speech.” Ptahhotep live around 2396 B.C., before there was Greece and Rome. The “Instructions of Ptahhotep” belong to a period of 2500 years before Christ. Following is a sample of the profound wisdom of these Africans.

    • Good speech is more hidden than greenstone (emeralds), yet it may be found among maids at the grindstones.
    • Speaking is harder than all other work. The one who understands this makes speech a servant.
    • Be deliberate when you speak so as to say things that count.
    • The heart of the wise matches his or her tongue and his or her lips are straight when he or she speaks.
    • The trusted man is one who does not speak the first thing that comes to mind; and he will become a leader.
    • Don't listen to the words of flatterers or to words that puff you up with pride and vanity.

    The teachings of Ptahhotep are important for myriad reasons to numerous to mention; however, one of the most important is that it provides human beings with a glimpse of a profound intellectual and spiritual body of thought and way of life of ancient Africa people.

    Only when your black associates understand who they are will they admire you and understand that you are really “speaking black.”


    “A man with wisdom is better off than a stupid man with any amount of charm and superstition.”

  • 20

    "Only when your black associates understand who they are will they admire you and understand that you are really “speaking black.” "

    Good job on negating the author's anti-racist sentiments by bastardizing "speaking intelligently" and once again showing both races can be equally as bigoted and racist.

    • 20.1


      What's racist about history? Greece and Rome are the foundation and pride for humans who are classified as "white". Why can't ancient African history be used for the same purpose?

      "The truth is the light."

  • 21

    There is no speaking or acting white. What the culture, mores and folkways of this country have evolved into is American. So your speech pattern is just American, nothing more or nothing less. Some Americans have a more 'American' speech pattern than others. Regional differences and educational attainment are factors to be considered also. also.

  • 22

    @Jazzbuff, the author attempted to take race out of the equation at the end and chalk up her ability to speak proper english not to the color of her skin but her education and up-bringing, then you go and insert your little spiel about egyptians inventing speech and making it about race again, and saying "I speak black" or whatever. That's what's racist about your comment.

    That's what always cracks me up about people that complain about racism, they can't just meet in the middle and disregard color, someone will concede something then someone will have to take it and push their point on it. All parties are guilty of it and it's so annoying, one step forward two steps back.

  • 23

    I grew up in small-town Montana - no issues with "black" and "white" speech there, for sure. Still, my dad, who owned and edited the local newspaper, was very much a stickler for good vocabulary. And my classmates laughed at me for years simply because I spoke the way I always did at home. So here's something I've always wondered: how did "ebonics" come about? Where did what people consider "black" speech come from? Was it simply the natural result or African culture blending with American culture? Was it a deliberate attempt to differentiate from "white" America? In any case I have a hard time believing that it had anything to do with an organized conspiracy by "the man" to divide urban/suburban, rich/poor and educated/uneducated. And in any case, Taylor, you rock. Because your article reinforces what I have tried to learn and remember and always live by: if you carry yourself with dignity and your "wisdom matches your tongue," then you no longer labor under the need to "fit in" based on your surroundings. You're free. You can do anything...

  • 24

    I am not from the Detroit area, but from New Orleans, yet I have encountered the same problems throughout my time spent in NOLA and even sometimes in California, where I now reside. I too, grew up with English teachers in my family and was guided toward correct use of the English language. Now when I return to New Orleans, and happen to speak with a black person I don't know, I also get that strange look which is usually followed by the question: "Where you from?" Then, when I say, New Orleans there is a surprised look.
    At any rate, I think all this came about after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. When he was alive, we were non violent but all fighting for the right to an equitable education and equal rights under the law. I recall one incident where the National Guard was brought in just so a black student would be allowed to attend school. It seemed to me then that at that time, almost every black person was enthusiastic about getting an education and improving their lot, so to speak. Then, after Dr. King was killed, the militants rose up and it became the trend to go against the system. I entered college in 1972 in California and fully expected to see many black students filled with the same enthusiasm I had to be in college and to have a promising future before me. In fact, black enrollment in my college turned out to be lower than I expected and has continued to fall every year since then. Soon I realized that among some blacks, it was no longer "cool" to be or appear to be educated. Where ebonics came from, I don't know, but I always saw that as a joke, another potential plague upon the race.
    I say that those who pursue excellence in life must also find it in learning and strive for that in all areas of their lives. There is no such thing as talking "white," but if we allow ourselves to be deceived by these false stereotypes. We have got to accentuate the positive and throw out all those negative assumptions and behaviors which in the long run really hold us back and make our way proudly and smartly into the future.

  • 25

    Its this kind of article that evokes sympathy from alot of people. Not me. There are many people of color in America that speak properly, but not necessarily, "White". I, myself, am mixed. I was adopted by two parents, both black, who spoke properly and encouraged me to do the same. Was I allowed to speak, slang? In the proper setting, with my friends or cousins. Not at Church or school functions or anything like that. I spoke "Blackanese" with my friends and family, and "proper" or the Kings English, when the situation called for it. Now, when i heard someone refer to how someone spoke as "talking white", it was usually the inflection they put on certain words, or alot of the time, the over-enunciation of those words. A good example is Colin Powell and Morgan Freeman. They both speak proper english, but the inflections are different. Colin sounds like a suburban white guy and Morgan sounds like a brotha!! The fact that both of them are black..cant be denied. The fact that both are capable of speaking grammatically correct english...can be denied even less. But does Colin sound more over-enuciated and "White"? Yup. Does Morgan sound like he spit out Billy Dee Williams? Sho nuff. So before we get on our high horse, lets consider all the factors and possible scenarios. I speak proper english and blackanese, but have never been accused of "talking white". But blacks I know that over-enunciate, have been. Now, put that in your pipe and smoke it, Sista, or is it Sister? I'm so confused!!

  • 26


    There is nothing bigoted or racist in jazzbuff's post.

    Q. Why is being black such a big deal to black people?
    A. Because circumstances and history make it a big deal.

    It is easy for white people (like me) to pretend that race is not a big deal, because for most white people here in the U.S. whiteness is not a big deal. Whiteness is treated as if it is not an ethnicity but the lack of ethnicity. Our own heroes are treated as if they are universal heroes, while great African-Americans are mentioned briefly during Black History Month and forgotten. Every month is White History Month.

    If history hadn't happened, and if we lived in a society which actually was color-blind then we might be justified in calling African-Americans bigoted and exclusive if they point to the accomplishments of Africans and African-Americans. But it did, and we don't, and we are not.

    We all know about Plato and we all know about Solomon, an actual author and a claimed author of Western wisdom literature. We should know about Plato and Solomon. We should also know about Ptah-Hotep, but most of us don't. There is nothing racist in pointing that out.

    • 26.1


      I couldn't have said it better. I will add that "all history is a current event." What happened 5000 years ago, 500 years ago or 5 minutes ago has a direct impact on what is happening now and in the future. If people don't learn from their history they are doomed to repeat it.


  • 27

    I'm just going to be frank about it, if it was worth knowing about, we'd know about it. Quite honestly I think history is a waste of time anyway

  • 28

    Keep talking your own way, it sounds great! There are white equivalents to "talking Black" but they are based on regional or cultural references.
    A hilarious example is in the movie Idiocracy. Awakened 500 years in the future, the protagonist is harassed for talking like a "faggot" due to his proper use of English.
    It's a hoot to watch, but I've been in areas where the similarities are surreal. Talking like a "city slicker" will get you in trouble in many rural areas.

    Culture of Ignorance.

  • 29


  • 30

    i think you ought to say it right - you speak American ... not English. Your attitude is the best though. I hope there is more proliferation of this.

  • 31

    When I read essays like this and the mainstream media eats it up It just illustrates how much both black and white people don't understand what this is.

    "Talking black" is the commonly used term to describe slang. Black slang is a different language than american english. The vernacular, inflection points, and word meanings are completely different.

    The same as deep south slang is different than american english.

    When people tease you about "talking white" its because you're really speaking a different language- english.

    Adding intelligence to the equation is just silly. Your intelligence cannot be quantified by the language you speak.

  • 32

    "...they're stating that they themselves don't have the ability to talk proper."

    It's "talk properly," not "talk proper." 'Proper' is an adjective (which describes a noun), 'properly' is an adverb (which describes a verb such as 'talk').

  • 33

    Wow Jazzduck... thank you, now nobody respects you.

  • 34

    Taylor's narrative is just a generational version of what most Black americans and other ethnic groups have encountered interacting with the majority white cultural mores..

    Any discussion of this topic among Black folks especially the older generation will echo the same narrative Taylor is posting about instead of "speaking white" many were called" elites or bougie" etc..

    What I find troubling about Taylor's narrative is that now it has become a political device and tool used by white conservatives to create wedge issues between Black folks..It is also used by white liberals to promote thier white paternalism and of course Black apologists used these types of narratives by students like Taylor for create a cottage industry for their agenda..

    I wil admit being called a conspiracy theorist is better than the usual n-word..

  • 35

    It's great to have a command of Standard English. It's true that a lot of people will judge you as less intelligent or educated if you speak any other way, as your mother taught you, and as a lot of the comments in this thread demonstrate.

    However, that attitude is unfortunately based on a myth... a scientific inaccuracy. There is nothing "dumb" about African American Vernacular English, as linguists call it. It's just another dialect... as valid as Standard American English, Southern English, New England English, British English, Australian English, Singapore English. EVERY English speaker (or speaker of any language) uses one dialect or another, and they are all equally logical, intelligent, and valid. The negative attitudes people have towards some of these varieties (and the positive attitudes they have towards others) are just cultural attitudes people have towards speakers of those varieties, transposed to the language.

    If you're interested in the history and structure of African American Vernacular English, look it up in Wikipedia. It has its own rules of pronunciation and grammar, but they are no better or worse than those of any other dialect, including the standard.

    Having said that, in our culture and in many others around the world, language is used as a proxy for race and education to deny certain groups access to power and wealth. A good command of Standard English can open those doors, and for that reason alone, I'd say you're fortunate to have been gifted with it by your parents.

    Note however that it is perfectly possible to be "bidialectal"... to control BOTH Standard English and an ethnic or regional variety. In general, the more ways of speaking you have available to you, the more opportunities you have. Just listen to any politician: all of them will switch between Standard English, when they want to sound statesmanlike, and whatever regional variety is available to them, when they want to sound like a woman or man of "the people". Successful politicians are almost all bidialectal to some extent at least, and they use it to their advantage.

    Be proud of your command of Standard English, by all means. It will be very useful to you. But don't assume that your peers who don't have the access to it that you do are "dumb". And take some linguistics classes in college, if you get the chance.

  • 36

    I'm a sophomore in high school & I don't believe blacks or other races who do use this type of slang or "African American Vernacular English" should have to "change" they're grammar because it's not an incorrect way of speaking, it's a way we can understand one another better. But, I also believe there is a place and time to talk properly. I think you should have did some research on this subject because it makes all the wrong people look uneducated & dumb. I guess it goes by how you were raised and the outlook you have on this subject, but i think that most of the people on here with opposing views, like the user "srikandi", are correct.

    • 36.1

      Well if you reread this, kids really wanted me to change. They said that black people do not talk the way I do. In other words "they" do not talk the way I do either. I don't exactly mind how they talk but like you said there is a time and place for everything. Yet alot of teens of my race do not understand that. The thing is hopefully they won't talk or present themselves like that as adults.I was raised to talk like this at all times. That is just me. I never really said change. I just said it is not wise to look down on people who talk the way I do. People who speak proper English are teased. I never teased them. Or talked about them. It was the fact that the way I talk was just unacceptable and I was unable to fit in with my own race. I don't feel any research is needed because this is a piece about myself growing up and what I experienced as a child with my speech. Like I said this is not an attack on people who speak that way. It is an attack on people who look down upon others who speak properly.

  • 37

    You should never be ashamed of what you are. Neither are we black or white we should be able to accept people as the way everybody is.

    I am glad you are now found yourself and I have also a lot of respect for you. Finding a guy who talks English correctly and well is hard nowadays when swear words and all kinds of not proper words are considered as cool.

    I am a white Finnish girl who's mother tongue is Finnish. I am trying my best to learn it and I don't use swear words. I also love English and can't understand some written dialects even though I read them everyday.

  • 38

    These comments are absurd. It is a well stated point..that all too often african americans are judged by the way they speak, act, think, or reason; however i feel that as african americans there is absolutely no need to take offense to such comments. I can't count the number of times where i am the only black person in a class and the white kids struggle to say "African American" to avoid racial conflict. People black and white alike are too caught up in the titles we put on one another...really does it matter? There are far more monumental battles that America is fighting-black and white- but we dwell on the smallest things.
    Honesty i am surprised to see the number of comments. This isn't a one person thing or a two person thing. i have sat in honors classes since about there grade with the long blonde hair and the shining blue eyes. and being the only girl in a class repeating the reason i don't wash my hair everyday. It's life dealing with ignorant people. i honestly feel that these white kids (some even my friends), have played a major role in my maturity. So i have heard many a time you act white. you should have been born white. etc. i wasn't! im not! i still like aeropostale and i still love lil wayne. so i guess from my point of view i dont feel a need to complain about the "black-white stereotype" because it made me who i am. tolerant. and it seems some of you need that. So call me white...the entire situation is simply vain. <3 miss mo.

  • 39

    I'm rather appalled by the discrimination by the author against people who don't speak "proper English". It is no surprise that her mother is an English teacher, so those terrible little inaccuracies like "don't put prepositions at the end of a sentence" and "don't split infinitives" were ingrained in the author at a very young age, as was the discriminatory attitude to those who don't speak "correctly" like she does. You seem to see it as wrong to judge people based on their skin color, but it's perfectly fine to you to judge people based on how they speak? They're automatically bad people because they say "ain't"? Please do not think you can talk at length about language if you don't have the education to back up your arguments, but rather just because you speak a language. I certainly don't think I'm qualified to speak at length about genetics simply because I have genes, because I don't have the education to know anything about genetics. You may think you know lots about language and grammar, but as long as you have the attitude that people "should" speak a certain way, and that certain speech is "right" and other speech is "wrong", you know nothing, and should stop thinking you do know anything. If you're in college, take an "Introduction to Linguistics" course, and hopefully you'll learn something.

  • 40

    Taylor I would like to thank you for a wonderful well written article. This is a problem that many face despite race. I am white, was born in Kansas and raised in the South for the most part. (I have lived in the North a few times.) My accent is a mixture of all the states I lived in (even the few in the North). My mother too refused to let slang enter my vocabulary. I am now a 30 year old woman who is teaching her own children to speak properly and I do not tolerate slang in their speech.

    Growing up I found it irritating that my mother would constantly correct my speech. As a mother myself I can now truly appreciate her reasons for this and I am truly thankful for the lesson.

    However, slang will always creep into a language and it is different not just by race but by nationality and also the geography of where a person is from. Because lets face it you can be a black American, a black Mexican, black Italian, and etc. Just as I could have been a white African, or a white Mexican. It may not be the norm among that nation but it is what it is. It does not matter where our roots are from, we are Americans and have embraced the English language to its fullest. Though some of our words today would be considered slang in the past. Words like awful and foul. So do not be too harsh on those that allow slang to sneak into their speech.

    I have had the pleasure to meet several individuals from all walks of life and the problem of slang can cause many disruptions and misunderstandings. "Southern" slang is vastly different than "Northern" slang.

    I do not judge others for using slang and I doubt you do as well. To have those people judge us for speaking our language correctly is what proves they are ignorant.

    Just because I was raised mainly in the south does not mean I have to say ya'll and speak the English language so atrociously that people have to ask me to repeat myself because I want to drop a few letters here and there. You have learned that your proper speech will enable you to succeed further than those that remain ignorant and chose to remain ignorant.

    There is a vast difference in those that are intelligent and still speak using slang and those that speak slang because they have not learned to speak any other way. When I say those that are ignorant and chose to remain ignorant I speak of those that judge us for our speech and chose not to understand what speaking properly could do for them.

    The fact that people do not have to ask me to repeat myself over and over shows that my ability to speak properly gets the point across more clearly and faster than if one was to use slang. Though just because we are intelligent and know how to use the English language does not mean that we must also use words that the average person would not understand.

  • 41

    Great article. Very articulate.

  • 42

    Reblogged this on asiaforeman and commented:
    Love this article

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