“Yo, and like the slave master just merked his little brother,” said
my classmate during her oral report on Frederick Douglass’ slave
narrative. “And you know his mother didn’t bang with him like that.”
I sat there befuddled. Was she really serious?
She had to know she was talking about a man who literally had to use
his own wit, to not only learn how to read and write, but escape
slavery and speak out on the injustice of the institution; a man so
important that we are still speaking of him more than a century after
Sadly she was. I looked at my friend sitting on the other side of the
classroom and watched as her own eyes widened when she comprehended the weight of what the young lady had said. We locked eyes and simultaneously shook heads.
Strangely, when I looked at my professor, she had no indication of
I hope she noticed the young lady’s use of improper English. If she
didn’t, it may be time for her to be on her way. But, if she did
notice the young lady’s choice of words (which I think she did), why
didn’t she ask her for clarification, or to use Standard English?
Does she think so lowly of her students that she figures it isn’t
even worth it?
Like many here, I come from a background where Standard English isn’t the norm. To this day, my everyday speech is a mixture of sharecropper and a dope-boy. And guess what, this is okay.
But as blacks, we have to know how to switch the “black talk” on and off.
So my people, beautiful black people, please learn how to speak
Standard English – at least in an academic setting.