Kayla Cason – “If Black English Isn’t a Language, Then Tell Me, What Is?” by James Baldwin – Response
James Baldwin’s op-ed “If Black English Isn’t a Language, Then Tell Me, What Is?” was a piece I did not realize I needed to read. My initial reaction to the title was bewilderment yet great interest in discovering what Baldwin wanted to convey. Once I began to read, I felt myself connecting with Baldwin and agreeing with and understanding his stance on the comprehension of African American culture in America. In this op-ed, Baldwin explains how the creation of a language “ comes into existence by means of necessity, and the rules of the language are dictated by what the language must convey” (Baldwin 2). The creation of Black English is a prime example of this. According to Baldwin, the force that drove the establishment of Black English was the significant language barrier between slaves imported into the U.S. Because they derived from a variety of African tribes and nations, they were unable to effectively communicate with each other in order to maintain a community and survive. This “brutal necessity” of surviving in a foreign land as a slave drove Black people to develop their own language. However, there are people who do not acknowledge the existence of Black English. To this, Baldwin challenges them in explaining the circumstances that force a new language to come about, and how the severeness of slavery was enough to be an exigence for the development of Black English.
One of the several points Baldwin makes that caught my attention was his analysis on African Americans’ lack of education throughout history. He states “ The brutal truth is that the bulk of of white people in American never had any interest in educating black people, except as this could serve white purposes . . .” (Baldwin 2). Captivatingly, Baldwin emphasizes the truth about the historic relationship between White and Black Americans. Black America’s ignorance was not a product of their own choices and actions but the result of the constant belittling and suppression from White America. The refusal to provide the same education to African Americans was a tool used to keep White people in power. Educated people of color, even in today’s society, are a threat to the power of white supremacy in America.