Proper English Grammar Is Now Racist

by Patricia L. Dickson3/3/15

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.


PatriciaDicksonPatricia Dickson blogs at Patricia’s Corner.
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4 Responses to Proper English Grammar Is Now Racist

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    The author is using the soft bigotry of low expectations under the guise of social justice.

    Nice post, Patricia. And I want all those who use the word “social justice” to take notice of what that idea now means…whatever it once might have meant historically (in theory, at least).

    By all means, if one is as word-stubborn as some are here (I love the idea that some want to take back the word “gay” from those who have absconded with it), then take back the meaning of “social justice.” But if you can’t articulate the difference between a commitment between private charity/moral responsibility and this new “social justice” which means public welfare/no moral responsibility then you’re just being a useful idiot.

  2. Timothy Lane says:

    When the only tool you have is a hammer . . . this is unfortunately all too typical of the increasingly obvious derangement of academia, especially the liberal madrassas of the various “studies” and many of the humanities. (I encountered the radical leftism of college teachers in the field of English over 40 years ago. At the time I suspect it was still new, perhaps strongest in TAs where I saw it.)

  3. SkepticalCynic SkepticalCynic says:

    I wish that I spoke correct and proper English. Having been born in NC, I speak a form of the English language that I heard as a child and young person growing up. I say words like, y’all, yonder, ain’t, dis, dat. I have tried to correct myself but have failed miserably. I am grateful that I can understand correctly spoken English and even write it a little bit. I can read it very well. My vocabulary is not what it should be, I had no idea what “Levant” was until I looked it up. We southerners have a dialect of our own. Some people from the northern parts of the country have difficulty understanding what we are saying at times. I will admit that it sounds to the highly educated like we are dumber than a hog. Even so, I have known some southerners with bad accents that were a hell of a lot smarter than some of academia’s and intelligentsia’s brightest minds. I can see a facet of the English teacher’s idea but I admit I would lrather speak with an accent like those proper Englishmen in Great Britain. Y’all come back now, ya’ heah.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      My own language reflects the fact that my father, as a career army officer, was stationed all over the place, but my relatives are from rural Edmonson county, Kentucky, so I know a bit about the different dialect of the South. Little use as I have for Elizabeth Warren, it’s nice to have a Massachusetts Senator who refers to her grandfather as her “papaw”. It’s not my usage — but my cousins back in Edmonson county speak that way.

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