Ruben Genao – “If Black English Isn’t a Language, Then Tell Me, What Is?” by James Baldwin – Response
In “If Black English Isn’t a Language, Then Tell Me, What is?”, James Baldwin explains the importance of language and how language is not exclusively for communication, it can be used to classify people with different social backgrounds and class, making it a tool to judge people based on their accents. Baldwin writes “There have been, and are, times, and places, when to speak a certain language could be dangerous, even fatal. Or, one may speak the same language, but in such a way that one’s antecedents are revealed, or (one hopes) hidden. This is true in France, and is absolutely true in England: The range (and reign) of accents on that damp little island make England coherent for the English and totally incomprehensible for everyone else. To open your mouth in England is (if I may use black English) to “put your business in the street”: You have confessed your parents, your youth, your school, your salary, your self-esteem, and, alas, your future”. Baldwin also explains the importance of language by saying the white rule over slaves would never have lasted as long as it did if the slaves didn’t have a language barrier, he states “A language comes into existence by means of brutal necessity, and the rules of the language are dictated by what the language must convey”. Black English came into existence because of the dispersion of black people from different tribes, its creation helped the slaves to form a community and to combat tough times.
What stood out to me the most was when Baldwin said “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 sentence makes me think of human history relating to the river valley civilizations and how language was a necessity in order to survive in their environment, leading to slavery in the United States and how Black English only came to existence because of the need to communicate that came with the adversity of slavery.