When Julie Washington, herself being black, tried to encourage improving literary skills in black children by teaching code-switching skills to speakers of the various dialects of AAE (African American English), she met resistance from both Black and Whites. This Atlantic article tells of well-meaning, or outwardly well-meaning, Whites claiming it will marginalize black further by creating a linguistic version of “separate but equal”. She tells the story of Blacks, on the other hand, also did not like the move because they didn’t like being told they talk different. Labelling their language as a “dialect” or as “Black English” was offensive to them.
Yet the stats are not surprisingly clear, the stronger your Black English, the worse you do on standardize tests. So what is the answer? It appears Washington, and many before her, are on to something in treating all languages as equals, and thus teaching home languages as a second language.
But I have had similar experiences to Washington by discovering that pointing out the linguistic habits of a speaker, is almost universally irritating, especially if that dialect is not held in high regard. Likewise, pointing out someone’s AAE, their religious preferences or their sexual preference when that preference is not held in high regard can also be offensive to that person. We don’t like our reflexive habits illustrated, when it puts us in a bad light, even if an unjust light. Thoughts?
Source & pic: The Atlantic April 2018, p18-20