by Patricia L. Dickson 3/3/15
It seems like not a day goes by without my reading about some new absurdity. I ran across an article written by some left-wing lunatic who purports to be an English teacher and who is part of what she calls the “social justice movement”. She writes for a blog called Everyday Feminist. She claims that demanding that everyone speak proper English grammar is “grammar snobbery” and is oppressive and racist. Why is it oppressive and racist? Because the dictionary was written by a white supremacist, heteropatriarchal system:
“As educated (and – okay – snarky) activists, we’re quick to respond to “According to the dictionary” arguments with “Who wrote the dictionary, though?”
“We understand that a reference guide created by a white supremacist, heteropatriarchal system does nothing but uphold that status quo.”
“Similarly, we have to use that line of thinking when talking about the English language: Who created the rules? And who benefits from them?”
The author, Melissa A. Fabello, introduced two schools of thought on what she calls successful communication: prescriptive and descriptive grammar. Prescriptive grammar is the true, honest pure language that is correct and acceptable (oppressive grammar). Descriptive grammar is however a language is being used to communicate effectively is correct because that is the basic purpose of language (to communicate). She contends that the ability and desire to speak proper English grammar comes down to privilege:
“As per usual, what this comes down to is an issue of privilege (of course!). In fact, grammar snobbery comes down to an intersection of multiple privileges.”
The multiple privileges are Educational Privilege, Class Privilege, Race Privilege, Native Language Privilege, and Ability Privilege. Her discussion of race privilege is what struck me as condescending. She claims that it is racist to demand that black Americans speak proper English Grammar because the use of “standard” English is considered a white attribute and is a form of Identity Erasure. How would requiring black Americans to speak proper English grammar erase their identity? She contends that African American Vernacular English (Ebonics) is also grammatically correct and is a dialect of English that has its own phonology. In addition, because blacks understand it and are able to communicate with other blacks, why should they be forced to learn what the white man considers proper English grammar:
“And part of the process of “becoming White” included giving up your cultural linguistic identity in favor of a streamlined English.”
“And we (as a society) denounce any form of the language that isn’t “white” enough”
I do not know what they are teaching black kids in school these days; however, I do know that I was never taught that speaking and writing proper English grammar was becoming white. Although no one is perfect and some of the best writers can sometimes make grammatical mistakes, everyone knows (including Ms. Fabello) that in order to be successful in America, one must learn how to communicate using proper English grammar. The entire article is a futile attempt to justify the failure of the public school system. The author is using the soft bigotry of low expectations under the guise of social justice.
Patricia Dickson blogs at Patricia’s Corner.
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