College Symposium Razes the Anti-Black Racism of 'Good' Grammar

(Joerg Carstensen/dpa via AP)

Do you speak the grammatically-correct language of white supremacy, or are you better than that?

At Maryland’s Towson University recently, a virtual conference ripped the racism of “rightful” words.


June 17th’s Antiracist Pedagogy Symposium sought to shed light on selecting syllables.

Associate Professor of Language, Literacy, and English Education April Baker-Bell — of Michigan State University — insisted teachers’ enforcement of standard English rules is an assault on “black language.”

Furthermore, per Campus Reform, she indicated black Americans bear a burden of racist violence.

White language guidelines, from the sound of things, aren’t too dissimilar:

“[It’s apparent that] anti-blackness that is used to diminish black language of black students in classrooms is not separate from the rampant and deliberate anti-black racism and violence inflicted upon black people in society.”

Black people don’t use conventionally “good” grammar, April evidently asserts, and teachers act as if they’re inferior:

“Teacher attitudes include assumptions that black students are somehow linguistically, morally, and intellectually inferior because they communicate in black language.”

Where whiteness is concerned, April’s contention isn’t uncommon.

Folks are fighting Caucasians’ cultural clench:

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America’s Largest Defense Contractor Fixes Its White Male Executives With Anti-White Privilege Training

Southern School District Tells Teachers to Ignore White Parents’ Complaints Over Critical Race Theory – They’re Benefiting From Whiteness

Department of Education Fights the White Supremacy of Math

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At Towson, Indiana University of Pennsylvania English Professor Cristina Sanchez-Martin also talked of pummeling paleness:

“The repeated references to ‘correct grammar’ and ‘standard language’ reinforce master narratives of English only as white and monolingualism and a deficit view of multilingualism.”

Back to April Baker-Bell, she wrote the book on the subject — literally.

See Linguistic Justice: Black Language, Literacy, Identity, and Pedagogy.

Earlier this month, she summarized the situation to USA Today:

“[B]lack language is a legitimate language with syntax, grammatical features, phonology and semantics. But when black people speak AAVE (African American Vernacular English), it’s seen as unprofessional, and they can be perceived as ‘intellectually inferior’ for speaking it.”

And black people are told by whites to be bilingual:


“It’s anti-black linguistic racism. It’s truly anti-blackness passing through our language in the ways we’re told we have to code switch.”

But that isn’t all. As USA Today relays, white people not only enact racism on black people with English dictates, they co-opt black people’s language. Particularly on TikTok:

What’s even more problematic is “white people coming up off of our language,” Baker-Bell says, like TikTokers rising to influencer status for videos that appropriate [black phrases] and companies using Black language in their marketing.

So when and how might white people be allowed to use the mode of communication created by black people?

To hear April tell it, we aren’t ready for that:

“When we see black people not being killed, black people not being discriminated against, black kids being able to learn and thrive with their own language, we can have that conversation.”

It’s a sad state of affairs:

“The divorcing of black people from the way that we talk is really just another way of liking what black people do, but not liking black people.”

Towson’s symposium was an effort toward computing our fluke.

And April’s on a quest for justice:


Will doing away with conventional grammar further sock it to whiteness and its colonialist clutches? And to what new rules should language adhere?

Whatever the answers, one thing seems clear: Revolution is immensely upon us.



See more pieces from me:

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