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If Black English Isn’t a Language, Then Tell Me, What Is? By James Baldwin

Posted by jenncy mejia on

In James Baldwin’s “If Black English Isn’t a Language, Then Tell Me, What Is?”, Baldwin goes on to explain the importance if launguage and how it defines you as a person and people should be allowed to have their own language because language is something that makes a person who they are. This is evident when he says, “People evolve a language in order to describe and thus control their circumstances, or in order not to be submerged by a reality that they cannot articulate.” He is basically saying different languages are created by different groups of people or even stem from other languages in order for them to express themselves because they do not want to live in a world in which they can not communicate or express themselves. I actually agree with this because it is clear that everyone likes to be connected and expressing themselves. This is especially evident now in the time of the internet because you see everyone sharing everything about themselves and commenting on other people’s posts. I also agree with when Baldwin says “It goes without saying, then, that language is also a political instrument, means, and proof of power”. Here he is basically saying that language is at the center of everything, because you need language for power and language is what is used to influence anyone from people in the street to government officials. This goes back to the fact that different groups create their own languages. A common language or languages is what holds a group together it’s why the slaves did not have the power to rebel for so long, they were weak as a group because they did not share the core of what gives a group their power, a common language. A common language is the base of power in any group, nation, or just people in general. This is why all people and groups should be allowed their own language and why black English is indeed a language.


Maximo Martinez, “If Black English Isn’t a Language, Then Tell Me, What Is?”, by James Baldwin

Posted by Maximo Martinez Grullon on

In “If Black English Isn’t a language, Then Tell Me, What is”, by James Baldwin talks about the importance of language. And he goes aheads and says that “People evolve a language in order to describe and thus control their circumstances, or in order not to be submerged by a reality that they cannot articulate” (Baldwin 2). Meaning that people create languages depending on their their circumstances and reality. Which leds to groups creating “different languages”, accents, or slangs for the same language, since every group and nation have different experiences. Balwin adds on to this idea on the third paragraph when he talks about places like Quebec, Marseilles and Martinique, and even though they all talk french, “as it turns out, they are not saying, and cannot be saying, the same things”.

He adds on to the importance of language by saying that “language is also a political instrument, means, and proof of power”. He talks about how with language you connect (or disconnect) with people, giving you the power to communicate with groups, communities or the public in general. Then he jumps on talking about how back then how dangerous language was since, since it said alot about you. He brings up examples like how back then by revealing your language “You have confessed your parents, your youth, your school, your salary, your self-esteem, and, alas, your future.” (Baldwin 4).

He talks about how the importance of language is related to “Black English” and how it should some how be respected by white people since “Black English is the creation of the black diaspora.” (Baldwin 7). Meaning that the “Black English” was created from black history on America, and attributed to the fact that Blacks had to in part assimilate and create a new language, since they were being brought as slaves from different tribes, and they had to figure out a way for them to understand each other.

But one thing I found “interesting” about this article, was the fact that Baldwin said “The brutal truth is that the bulk of white people in American never had any interest in educating black people, except as this could serve white purposes.” (Baldwin 11). Since even though it is true that alot of white people back then were racist because of the jim crow laws, and civil rights movement, other groups of white people helped on helping for the equality of races in America.


Anahi Tejeda – “If Black English Isn’t a Language, Then Tell Me, What Is?” by James Baldwin – Response

Posted by Anahis Garcia on

James Baldwin’s op-ed “If Black English Isn’t a Language Then Tell Me, What is?” was a really insightful and astonishing piece. It was composed of Baldwin not only emphasizing but demonstrating the importance and the depth behind language. Previous, to reading this op-ed I was very narrow-minded about the meaning of language, to me it was simply a means of communication. However, throughout reading this op-ed it showed me that it was indeed so much more. As Baldwin stated, “The argument has nothing to do with the language itself but with the role of language.” Through this, he conveys that language is not just a verbal way of communication but it is a way African Americans built a community. A language is a form of identification or identity. His stance throughout the op-ed was that “black language” should be acknowledged as a language. It dates back to the time period of slavery, in which people of color “blacks” were oppressed by the “superior whites.” The slaves were transported as if they were chained up dogs, all emerging from different tribes who spoke different languages. They had no form of communicating with one another in these extenuating circumstances driving them to create their own language. According to Baldwin, “People evolve a language in order to describe and thus control their circumstances.” Through this, he was trying to demonstrate that the means and circumstance are what emerges a language. The goal was and is survival it was sadly the “brutal necessity” of having to endure these circumstances and this struggle. Therefore, Baldwin wanted to call attention to the fact that giving into what is known to be the “common language” comes at the price of “one’s temporal identity.” He refused to allow blacks to define themselves by a (common) language that “has never been able to recognize him.” For blacks, their identities were something they intended to hold onto, therefore, through not acknowledging “black language” it completely undermines this.

“A child can not be taught by anyone who despises him, and a child can not afford to be fooled”(Baldwin 2). I found this line, in particular, to be very interesting because it went into the idea of how the white Americans generally had no interest in educating the black. The whites simply seemed to always have purely selfish intent on educating blacks. I also found it interesting that Baldwin calls attention to how it was not the person of colors language posed an issue, it is their experience.

Overall, I found the op-ed very interesting and intriguing to see how his stance could really develop and change my point of view completely on the importance of language and the evolution of it. However, I did find some of the phrasing and wording confusing due to the fact Baldwin used an abundant amount of figurative language. Although it had its confusing parts the op-ed sparked a lot of emotions and used pathos adequately to get its point across.

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