Here is the original link to the post in Novice Magazine through Apple News, since Apple News is not available on the computer!
Have you ever been told that you speak “improper” or “ghetto” for speaking the way you’ve known how to for your whole life? You were probably speaking Ebonics, or African American Vernacular English (AAVE). AAVE, or Ebonics, is not just Standard English with mistakes. The term “ebonics” is a combination of the words ebony, which means ‘black’, and phonics, which means ‘sounds’. Dr. Robert Williams, the psychologist who coined the term, defines ebonics as “…linguistic and paralinguistic features which on a concentric continuum represent the communicative competence of the West African, Caribbean, and United States slave descendant of African origin” (Williams, 1975). In short, this means Ebonics is the language that was formed from the fusion of various African and Caribbean languages that black people used to communicate.
Now let’s talk about the origins of Ebonics. When the first native Africans, brought over as slaves, came to America, obviously none of them spoke English. These first native Africans probably did not learn English as well as their American-born children did. Once they had children, their children were able to speak the languages of their parents, as well as English. This generation taught English to their own children. These grandchildren of the native Africans learned some of the “African tribal languages” in secret, since their slave masters forbid slaves from speaking them.. The words they knew from their grandparents’ languages formed into commonly used words over time, which resulted in Ebonics.
But wait, let’s back up a minute. Who did the native Africans learn English from? Well, they learned from their white slave masters, who, by the way, did not speak “proper English” either. They spoke southern variations that their parents spoke. On another note, since it was illegal for slaves to learn how to read and write, they would not be taught Standard English from books or by teachers. With all of this dense history, why is it expected that we forget the language that we were forced to create as a result of the circumstances imposed on us by the white man?
So to all of my friends and young people who have been chastised or made fun of for speaking the way you learned, I want you to be proud. Be proud of the history of our language. Be proud when you are speaking it. You are channeling the spirits and languages of our ancestors that were kidnapped by white men. You are channeling the spirits of all of the people who used this language when they were speaking to fight for our civil rights. Our language is unique. Our language is beautiful. Our language is ours, and we shouldn’t ever forget it.