I Axe You
September 22, 2018
Sounding dim and uneducated is now, it seems, something to aspire to and encourage, especially at universities:
A sociolinguist from Stanford University claims the way African-Americans speak leads to discrimination across the board — in the court system, interactions with police, education, and employment. Professor John Rickford says, “Black Vernacular English” is viewed as less “trustworthy, intelligent and well-educated” than so-called standard “white” English, and that “dismantling this construction is part of the fight for racial justice.” Rickford, who is the current president of the Linguistic Society of America, said the “modern-day racialisation of language” — which mandates that African-Americans conform to the white norm — has its roots in slavery.
In other words, bad whitey. Because judging people by what falls from their mouths – its comprehensibility, precision and so forth – is racist and oppressive. And if someone sounds barely literate, and uninterested in being understood by anyone outside of their immediate circle, then you should pretend that this is somehow your fault. It’s the way of the woke.
We’ve been here before, of course, when CUNY’s Dr A. W. Strouse - an enthusiast of “social justice” and whose dissertation is titled Literary Theories of the Foreskin – denounced “bourgeois white teachers” and insisted that correcting errors of spelling and basic grammar can “make students feel bewildered, hurt, or angry,” and should therefore be abandoned.
A conceit that prompted the following:
Dr Strouse tells us what it is we need to do. We, he says, “need to think critically about the conventions that govern academic speech.” Well, okay. But what about the teenagers who haven’t mastered even basic standard English and who are excused from even trying, for fear that any correction will upset them? How “critically” will they be thinking – say, about their employment prospects?
While Dr Strouse is revelling in how exotic and ethnic his classroom sounds, and basking in how incredibly woke he’s being, are his students narrowing their options in the job market? Unless it turns out that in the real world every employer wants their company’s memos and public literature, and their customer interactions, to include lots of double negatives, unfinished words, mispronunciation, and mangled tenses. Oh, and aks instead of ask. That always looks professional.
If a common impression given by “African American Vernacular English” is of imprecision and parochialism, and of someone not in full possession of their own thoughts, as Dr Strouse acknowledges, then it seems an odd thing to encourage in class, at a university. Why would someone spend a small fortune on an education that leaves them sounding uneducated? (An impression, incidentally, that Dr Strouse evidently tries hard to avoid regarding his own ostentatiously educated, and therefore statusful, self.) But sounding cartoonishly ghetto is the way to get ahead, apparently. For other, browner people.
And let’s not forget this farce at the Writing Centre at the University of Washington, Tacoma, the stated goal of which is to “help writers write and succeed in a racist society” - a feat to be accomplished by dismissing spelling and grammar as “racist” and “an unjust language structure.” And whose director, Dr Asao Inoue, took over a year to write a simple, 500-word press release.
As I said at the time:
In short, then, students with brown skin needn’t be articulate, verbally self-possessed, or precise in their thoughts. And that ungrammatical job application, the one enlivened with incomprehensible sentences and lots of inventive spelling, will do just fine. And by the time the real-world consequences of this “social justice” posturing become difficult to avoid, Dr Inoue will have been paid - and be merrily exploiting the next batch of suckers.
And so we arrive at a familiar question: If you wanted to harm the prospects of minority students, to diminish their chances in life, while congratulating yourself and being applauded by your peers, what would you do differently?
In the comments, Mike in Seattle notes,
50 years ago, this bigotry would have been expressed as “well, it’s just not fair to expect them to do better”… The only difference is now we’re supposed to celebrate these “woke” bigots.
Indeed. It’s perverse, almost grimly comical. The students are encouraged to be hyper-critical, indeed delusional, regarding the motives of all white people, even to the point of dismissing the correction of spelling and grammar as some egregious, racially motivated act of oppression. And yet the motives of their educators, the ones who tell them these things, and whose status and careers depend on cultivating tribalism and paranoid resentment, and a kind of pernicious flattery, are spared any similar questioning - or, so far as I can see, any questioning at all.
So much for “critical thinking.”
And so, students who leave university saddled with debt and a worthless Angry Studies pseudo-qualification, and who subsequently repel employers with their chippy attitude, inept spelling and grammatical incompetence, will presumably rationalise any rejection, any hardship, as proof of the evils of “whiteness” and the “racist society” that their lecturers banged on about. Because the more obvious explanation – that they were dupes, taken for a ride by race-hustling parasites - would be much too bruising to their egos.
Again, via the comments, behold the zenith of this mindset:
Uh, man’s sole “jabringing” object disfigure religion trauma and nubs, uh, the, inside the trauma of representation that turns into the black child devouring and identifying with the stories and into the white culture brought up, uh, de de de de de, dink, and add subjectively like a white man, the black man!
Apparently, these are the intellectual fruits of “hacking traditional college debate’s white privilege problem.” Do watch the video. Though I should point out that you may want to bite down on something. But hey, a degrading racial caricature, a cartoonish pantomime of blackness, complete with claims of “nigga authenticity” and actual jabbering, is now the last word in wokeness.
How far we’ve come.