“If Black English Isn’t a Language, Then Tell Me, What Is?” by James Baldwin – Response
“If Black English Isn’t a Language, Then Tell Me, What Is?” By James Baldwin, goes into depth of what a language is and what it represents. Baldwin makes a bold statement that he wasn’t trying to specifically argue about the language but the role languages play. He states “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. (And, if they cannot articulate it, they are submerged.)”. Languages come to life to be able to communicate and describe our thoughts and emotions to one another. Being put into situations where we don’t understand what is being said, we feel lost, almost like being under water. He says that language is also power and that language can be dangerous. He comes to say that it can reveal ones private identity, hidden hopes and can either disconnect or connect one to the community. Language gives us power we can mistreat, it can allow us to reveal things that are better undiscovered. In his writing what caught my eye is when he says, “ Now, I do not know what white Americans would sound like if there had never been any black people in the United States, but they would not sound the way they sound. Jazz, for example, is a very specific sexual term, as in jazz me, baby, but white people purified it into the Jazz Age.”. I agreed when he says this. Black people have influenced and continue to influence many people of different races, such as, how we speak, dress, etc. In this quote he is also saying that they made a foundation in which white people tried to make their own. He also states “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.”. He feels that the only reason the white people taught the black people their language was so they can be slaves. It would be easier to command and push someone around if they understand your orders. In saying this he makes a point that a child can’t be taught by someone who doesn’t have the right intentions with him.
“A language comes into existence by means of brutal necessity, and the rules of the language are dictated by what the language must convey.”. This part caught my attention. It made me think about where languages even came from. He mentions in his writing how the whites educated blacks for the wrong intentions. It was brutal, they were only taught how to communicate with whites, to be taken advantage of. We use languages as a form of communication, we give words meanings, we give words placements, such as bad or good. We put words into categories. We convey with words what we want, whether it is good or bad. We hurt people with our words. And we make languages to separate one another, and make it known we are all not the same.