Black English?

Y'awl might axin me why I be writin dis way. Y'awl might tink ma fambly didn't gib me a gud upbringin. Y'awl might say Ah be a no-count, woebegone yaller dawg fit for nothin but taters and chittlins. What be wrong wid yo innards and book-learning, Y'awl might be axing?

Run that paragraph by your intellectual multiculturist at one of our universities. Ask him to comment on the language or dialect. Five will get you ten he'll perk up and say, "Why that's black English; I'd know it anywhere!" But it t'aint. It is as white of an English as you can get.

According to David H. Fischer's book, Albion Seed, in 1773, Philip Fithian, from New Jersey, went to Richmond Virginia to teach at Nomini Hall. In his journal, he told how Northerners said, "I am," "You are," "She isn't," and "I haven't," whereas Virginians, "even if high rank", preferred to say "I be," "You be," "She ain't and "I hain't." The Virginian dialect, Fithian discovered, even had its own vocabulary: afeared for afraid, cater-cornered for crooked, chomp for chew, disremember for forget, and a host of similar substitutions.

Virginians tended to add syllables to words and embellish vowels such as: ha-alf for half, puriddy for pretty and wah-a-tah-mill-i-an for watermelon. They also had a way of softening consonants: sebem for seven, chimbly for chimney, mo for more and wid for with.

These Virginia speech patterns were not invented in America. They were derived from a family of regional dialects spoken throughout the south and west of England during the 17th century in the counties such as Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire, Dorset, Devon, Wiltshire, Oxford and Gloucester. By the late eighteenth century, these words had all but disappeared from polite usage. Fischer says, "In the twentieth century, words like dis or dat were rarely heard in any part of rural England, but they persisted among poor whites and blacks in the American South."

According to Fischer, a few Africanism crept into the English language, even words of African origin; however, "The major features of the Virginia accent, however, were established before African slaves could possibly have had much impact on language."

The bottom line is the language we often hear spoken among blacks has little or nothing to do with Africa. They're speaking like pure bred Englishmen of yesteryear from the south and west countries of Britain. The question you may ask is: how come Englishmen from those regions don't speak like that today? The answer's easy. They have benefitted from being educated to speak more correctly. The next question is: how come this English dialect continues to be spoken among some black people? Again, an easy answer with a minor side complexity. Those blacks have not benefitted from being educated to speak correctly. The side complexity, that distinguishes them from the English, is blacks have had multicultural intellectuals to convince them that "I be" talk is a part of their heritage and roots. Bad talking Englishmen suffered through the brutal "insensitivity" of having someone telling them they were wrong, at the same time demanding proper grammar and pronunciation.

The bottom line is so-called black English is nonsense and attempted coverup of government school corruption and capitulation to mediocrity. It's not simply a matter of "black English" being hard on the ears. Poor command of language is devastating to learning potential and reasoning skills. After all language is how we transmit knowledge and experiences.

But don't take my word. Just ax yourself: how many successful blacks be talkin black English?

Walter E. Williams
October 31, 1995
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