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Black English - Baldwin - Review

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Maiya Nelson

Professor Lee Harrison

ENGL 1301, Tues. 12:30-2PM (RED)

7 February 2016

Essay 1

        When people speak a language, it shows their culture. I could learn to speak another language but I won’t speak that language as good as I speak my primary language. My primary language is part of my identity. If I were to learn another language, I would have a different perspective or a different connection to another culture.  In James Baldwin’s “If Black English Isn’t a Language, then Tell Me, What is?” and Miguel Munoz’s “Leave Your Name at The Border” both arguments are about identity, they both share the non-existent acceptance of the white culture and stereotypes.

        The essay that Baldwin writes is that Black English, normally referred to as “Ebonics” which is known as improper language in the black community. Blacks are usually told that their language is no good. But most of the other races are caught using a lot of Black English metaphoric terms and not even knowing what they mean and even using them the wrong way. James Baldwin talks about slavery and how if the slaves that were chained together could understand the others language, slavery would not have lasted as long as it did. Baldwin says, “Subsequently, the slave was given, under the eye, and the gun, of his master, Congo Square, and the Bible--or in other words, and under these conditions, the slave began the formation of the black church, and it is within this unprecedented tabernacle that Black English began to be formed.” Baldwin is trying to get readers to understand that the slave owners did a very smart move by capturing slaves from different tribes, because eventually the slaves would plot against them.          

           Baldwin’s text insinuates that there are many versions of the English language. Even those who speak the same English speak it differently as a result of them developing to different social influences. He also indicates that the whites weren’t eager to teach blacks so they basically formed their own language. He shows us that a black person would not want to be taught by a person that despises him and rejects his experience.

        In “Leave Your Name at the Border” Munoz basically says that he has to become another person. Just because you move to a different country doesn’t mean that you have to change your identity and your individuality and that’s what Munoz is implying. Being bilingual is part of his identity. Manuel Muñoz was describing how they try to influence themselves to fit into society but they also see that there are others who don’t. Munoz explains that Spanish language more commonly looked down upon: “Spanish was and still is viewed with suspicion: it defined you, above all else, as part of a lower class”. Meaning that even though you’re bilingual you’re still identified as a minority and the White Americans are still going to turn their noses up at you because of that.



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