Language and Race

They say there are three things you should never talk about on the internet: religion, politics, and race. These three things, when brought up in conversation, can turn what might have been a cordial conversation into one filled with vitriol and malice. In recent times, however, there has been a lot of talk about race and how it affects everyone’s lives. In terms of how it’s affected my own life, I can’t really say it has. I’m writing this blog as a reflection on an article by the The Oxford Student, more specifically on their article titled. “Racism, Linguistics And The Law”. The first topic the articles discusses is the ability to be understood. One of the first things the article discusses is AAVE, or African American Vernacular English, or the dialect of English spoken by many African Americans. The article mentions this unique dialect of English because the author believes that the lack of widespread acceptance of AAVE is caused by scientific racism; AAVE has its own set of grammar but is still seen as less sophisticated by some. Although I definitely agree that AAVE is full-fledged dialect of English, I also believe that its lack of acceptance may be caused by factors other than the race of its speakers. One such reason for why AAVE hasn’t gained as much traction may be the fact that many of the world’s speakers of English speakers aren’t able to understand AAVE without any prior exposure to it. The very same strict grammar rules that make AAVE a dialect may hamper intelligibility to other speakers of English. Additionally, in another study, the same native speaker of English was presented as both Asian and Caucasian to a group of listeners. The listeners decided that, when the speaker was presented as Asian, that he was much harder to understand and spoke with a much heavier accent. The article also pointed something out that I thought was really important: that the subjects of this experiment weren’t especially racist or prejudiced, and that they were just normal members of society. The article does a good job of ascribing the attitude the study found to exist as a problem facing society, rather than a problem facing certain members of our society. Evaluations of society’s problems such as this are, I find, very helpful in determining and eradicating one’s own biases.

About the author

Om Satapathy

Hi, I'm Om, the author of Lingua Franca.

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