This week there was uproar from all sides regarding what Harry Reid said about then candidate Barak Obama. The now infamous “Negro dialect” comment was the focus on many media outlets. The conversation has taken so many twists and turns, it is hard to figure out what we are arguing about anymore. The left and the right are contorting and bouncing around the issue so much, they resemble acrobats.
Here is where I must weigh in. I’ll tell you what I have been saying privately to my peers for years. I prefer to be identified as an American Negro. Not so much African-American or Black, man-of-color, colored, and damn sure not the N word, with or without the ‘R”. American Negro the accurate.
Let’s be honest–if you have ever traveled and came into contact with another black person on the planet, you could tell if they were from the good old U.S.of A. We are unique people on the planet. We were home grown with the attitude
of our forefathers, literally. We were molded over generations from the hatred of slave-owners to the confidence of our champions. Our swagger can be seen throughout the world and our influence is immeasurable. Our humor is infectious and our talents are renowned. But I don’t want to go all Maya Angelou, so let me get to the point of the Negro dialect.
I am sick and tired of having to apologize for our language, and how we speak it on occasion.
In many places across the globe, there are variations on the language from Spain–the Castilian is different from
Andalucian,–and how English is spoken in England, Ireland, and, closer to home, Jamaica. I spent time there a few years ago and I noticed they all spoke beautiful English to tourists and to those who were conducting business, but as soon as they spoke to each other they spoke patois (patwa). No matter their education, or how well they spoke “standard” English, they all had patois in their repertoire. Different dialects may be not looked upon favorably by all but, while they have detractors, they all have advocates, and some are even celebrated.
There’s nothing cooler when we hear an Aussie, Frenchman, or a Brit speak with that lovely accent. We’re impressed. But no one says it’s okay when we speak our form of English. And for those who are not American Negroes who try to teach so-called Ebonics, they get it wrong most of the time. It’s not something that can be taught in books, it’s more of a feeling that is passed along by being around it. Whites and others CAN do it, but you can tell when it is authentic (see Teena Marie, Vanilla Child).
We all learn to speak one way in public and another way at home. And we all have that relative that spoke “proper”, even at home. For me, it was my aunt Mable. She was always on, but I’ll bet you she can speak it around certain people, and that’s a beautiful thing. We need to embrace it and not act so damn high and mighty when certain topics are brought out. The problem with the Negro dialect is when American Negroes speak it at the WRONG TIME, in the WRONG PLACE, to the WRONG PEOPLE. Negro dialect is not appropriate when applying for a job, taking tests, writing columns, conducting interviews, or when speaking to your supervisor. We need to use better judgment. Be bilingual. It had to be said.