Anahi Tejeda – “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 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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