Monday, February 05, 2007

"Articulate"... the anti-ebonics

And here I was thinking the topics would be boring....

Joseph Biden's mouth got him in trouble,... again. In comments about Senator Obama, he mentioned that the Senator was the first maintstream (paraphrasing) "clean-cut and articulate" African-American candidate in a long time. Maybe by "mainstream" he meant someone not mind-melded with the typical pure left or liberal viewpoint of most blacks in the political world, but really, who knows what he meant It has created quite the firestorm in this news cycle. Topics like these are difficult to discuss, and are typed and treated in the blogosphere with condom-fingers. Nobody wants to get too close. Let me take a crack at it.

I think its true that when a black person speaks accurately (as I define it), with no slang, Ebonics, or cultural affinities, it gives the illusion to most people that they are better educated and "above and beyond" (my terminology) to the images they generally hold for Black Americans. I am first in line to admit this. All,.. and I repeat ALL my black friends speak to me with "black-ism" sprinkled words. I don't even question it, think about it, or really pay mind to it. Heck, it doesn't stop with blacks. I know Latinos, Asians and Caucasians that take the style as their own, and credit the phenomena to the hip-hop culture and not necessarily to the black community per se. But does that fact deny that I don't judge them somewhat? No. I do. One particular friend was pissed when he felt he blew an interview about a month ago. And he felt, justifiably so, that he was being judged by the way he talks and not by his answers to the questions at hand.

In listening to the talk shows and reading editorials, I can fully understand why some people are upset. To them, coat-tailing any description of a black person with the word "articulate" is code for the person talking in lock-step with the ideals of what the predominantly white majority deems acceptable and standard. I can see how that would piss anybody off. But just like saying that ANY black person having "white" diction, accent and pronunciation is a sellout to their race; the notion that being articulate is a back-handed compliment is just as narrow-minded. Personally I admire people with good diction and flow of gab. In politics I admire people like Mitt Romney, Russ Feingold, Jim Webb, Gary Locke, Bill Clinton and Mike Huckaby. Not necessarily for their views -which are as varied as anything-, but because I admire anyone who can put a collection of sentences together into an opinion that is easily digestible. I love when I can hear someone give me their thoughts saliently and cleanly. I love a good voice, a good story-teller. Not everybody can do that. So when someone comes along that sticks out as "eloquent", I say it. Tell me you can listen to James Earl Jones, Colin Powell and Barack Obama and not say "eloquent" or "articulate". It cries for it; regardless of race. Yet, I can't say the same for other "well spoken" black or white legislators. Having good diction and a lack of regional accent does not an articulate person make. Look, listen to any black Briton, without knowing their race,... can you tell what race they are? Sure there are differences in what is considered "good" English and "low brow" English, but to me, more British subjects take their lingo seriously enough to uphold some basic standards of their language than us Yanks do. Listen to a guy like Seal, ... it's beautiful to hear him speak. Its not the fault of anyone but the preponderance of the black community that Ebonics is considered cool and cultural. Americans don't hold their children to a standard of speech and diction. Nowadays our culture, education and views are too politically correct to even go near that concept. We mangle our national tongue at the peril of being judged by it. Its not a black or white thing, at the end of it all, its a choice. Resistance is futile. Is judging people by the way they talk wrong? In principle, yes. Do I think the majority of us do it purposely to put people down? No. It is what it is. A reflection of the social condition we all condemn, or bless.

As to the "clean-cut" thing?.... I've no quarrel with that. I laughed today when I heard Al Sharpton rail against Joe Biden. If you ask Al Sharpton if he looked "clean cut" -when he was pimping the streets of Harlem in white Nike sweats and a 40 pound gold medallion around his neck-, whether he looked clean cut or not -as opposed to the dapper Al that he now reflects-, I doubt his diatribe would sound the same.

I think Joe Biden said what we all feel and think, without much though to it, and certainly without malice. The Neil Kinnock plagiarism bomb was one thing,... this is just something that happens to most of us every day. Maybe this is one of those events that will help us study our prejudices. Maybe it will do a lot of things, but giving white America yet another reason to be terrified of yet another word they can't use in daily life is just stupid. Why should Joe Biden get it in the shorts?
Oh yeah, if you're wondering what does the photo have to do with the posting?.... probably nothing. It's just thought-provoking....., and if you know me....


Brooke said...

Didn't Colin Powel help to reject a movement to teach ebonics in schools?

Really, I think that hip-hop speak, ebonics, or whatever one calls it is just poor English. Period. Why should we dumb down our schools and standards because some are too lazy to speak properly or think they're "cool" when they speak as if English is their second language?

Your friend that blew the job interview shouldn't be angry; why should an employer hire someone who sounds inarticulate and unprofessional to represent his company to the public? If he wants a good job, he's got to grow up and sound like an adult!

Is that judgmental? Probably...

D.Daddio Al-Ozarka said...

Cavuto interviewed Bush this week and when he asked the prez about Obama, the "articulate" "slur" was used in reply.

And Bush is being bashed for it.

Did any of you catch that segment?

benning said...

Obama is, indeed, articualte. The problem I have with him is that he simply parrots all the Democrat talking points. I've heard not one new idea from him that isn't a reflection of today's Democrat Party. Black, white, or whatever ... Obama is simply a garden-variety Democrat.

A young black man was chatting with a black woman in the store the other day. I could understand her. I couldn't understand most of what he was saying. Too much dialect. I wouldn't hire him, if he was applying. The same holds for the youngsters that apply while decked out in the most outlandish costumes imaginable. It may be fine if they were applying for a position in a music store, but not in a regular retail store. Fact is: they scare most older folks, and turn off a lot of others.

Just how many times can you say, "Excuse me?" to a clerk before you realize that he/she cannot speak understandable English? I'm not willing to patronize establishments whose employees speak as though they have mouths full of marbles.

QuakerDave said...

With all due respect, talking about "articulate"-ness with George Bush is like asking me about, say, gambling.

They don't exactly go together.

Renegade Eye said...

What about fembonics?

Truth-Pain said...

I think you're on the money. What I did not put on my posting, was that immediately after he told me of being upset, I said, "Dude, you sound like P. Diddy on steroids,... Love ya' man but you were interviewing for a public relations gig,... are you kiddin' me?"....(how's that for pefect English from yours trully...?)

I agree with QuakerDave that Bush 43 is not the paragon of authority on articulation,...but I did not see that particular segnment, no. But I will agree with you that the media does have double standards... on both sides of the spectrum.

Nice to see you again in these parts.
I really can't figure Obama out yet. If one is to measure him just by the first chapters of his book, then I feel very dissapointed becuase there is no depth or complexity to his prose. It was written in such a "gee whiz" tone that I had to stop reading.
Having said that, I have to give him credit for one thing; he rarely goes down the road travelled by most minority candidates... at least I've not seet it. He has an uncanny ability to do the talking points and making them sound original and from the heart. Maybe its all fluff,... but America loves a likeable guy,.. .America loves fluff. We can't discount that, can we?....

Ditto on your remarks on Bush,...(no offense Daddio),... but no gambling?... you never been to Atlantic City?..

Fembonics works for me.... or crembonics, and any other "bonics" available ...

Always On Watch Two said...

Americans don't hold their children to a standard of speech and diction.

In addition to Ebonics, I hear students use sound clips from television ads. Years ago, I had a terrible time getting my third graders to stop saying "doozit," part of the lingo in the ad "Renuzit doozit."

A few years later, my students started using "shrunk" when they should have used "shrank"; this error stemmed from the title of the movie Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. That same type of error extended to improper usage of "sunk" and "sank," as in "The Titanic sunk."

Do the above errors interfere in my understanding of what my students were saying? No. But come testing time, the errors still prevailed.

Today I work with high schoolers. I have a terrible time getting them not to use "cool" and "kids" in their SAT-prep essays. The students simply don't know the words are slang and, therefore, not formal English for writing essays. So far, my students aren't using the IM short cuts ("u," for example), but in a few years, as computer users get even younger, I expect to see those kinds of errors.

As a teacher, I cannot emphasize enough that parents should hold their students to traditional standards of English in the home. Children remember what they practice, and they are at home more than they are in classes.

Whether we want to admit it or not, we do judge people by their use of the English language. Eloquence and proper usage never go out of style, especially in the professional world.

PS: I had to change my blog's URL to get rid of a vile troll. Just letting you know why I'm now AOW2.

Obob said...

in my classroom or on school grounds, you talk like you are educated. I correct my students, black or white, to sound educated and professional. Using ebonics might work on the street but not in my class. And there is no excuse and I have yet to have a black parent complain. Other matters, hey I am not in the education buisness to be loved.
And the Bears are 24.5 million under the cap

Truth-Pain said...

Thanks for the new link-up. I will update my blogroll.
I love your comments, ... I think you may not be in sync with some liberal teachers around my area of the country but i dont see how having a standard of language and diction can be a bad thing.... it is?

Ditto for you my friend. I hope my daughter happens to run into teachers such as yourself when she is ready to tassle with the jobs of public education...
As to that cap?... sweeeet! you think they are going after a QB? maybe Culpepper?.... Rumor around the campfire is that he is on the outs at Miami..... imagine him throwing bombs to Mushin....