“Bad grammar makes me [sic].” Unknown
Growing up in a predominately-White neighborhood, and attending predominately-White schools, I didn’t have much contact with other Black Americans, except for family friends, and relatives, and the relatives lived in South Carolina. My manner of speech within these settings didn’t raise suspicion or distain. But, once I stepped beyond, the assaults came. The most common one was, “Ooh! She talk like a White girl!”
One of the things that my mother vehemently dislikes is Black people speaking poorly. In fact, my brother and I weren’t even allowed to say “aint”; my mother believed using it made one sound ignorant. I remember one summer day, when my brother and I were little. We were playing outside, in front of the kitchen window. One of us said the a-word. My mother, who overheard from the kitchen, shouted from the window, “Don’t EVER let me hear you say that word again!” She felt the same way about y’all, despite being born and raised in South Carolina. Just does something to her.
Additionally, I grew up during a time when people were judged, more so than they are now, by the words they chose and the correctness of of their grammar. This judgement was even harsher for Black Americans. I was taught that being average was okay for White people, but not for Black Americans. That included the way in which I spoke.
Whether one is of color or not, speaking poorly is speaking poorly. Bad grammar and a limited vocabulary reduce one’s opportunities in life. That said, there are Black Americans who hold other Black Americans who speak well, and who have worked hard to speak well, in utter contempt. Somehow, if I’m not speaking Ebonics, I’m not Black enough, I’m not “down”. The truth of the matter is, there are Caucasians who will drop the N-bomb, even as I am speaking the proverbial Queen’s English. I know I’m Black.
I am grateful to my parents, my mother especially, for insisting that I speak well. As for those who ridiculed me, they were never going to be my friend, anyway.