The Back to Ebonics movement has been around for a couple of decades. It gained some traction in the seventies during the era when everything Black was pronounced as beautiful. Emerging from the ugliness of segregation and Jim Crow laws which did see the systemic evisceration of the dignity of Black individuals, the Black is Beautiful slogan was understandable from the standpoint of psychological preservation. Ebonics—the Black Vernacular that is believed to capture the unique and singular way many Blacks speak—was regarded by many as a means of also protecting the dignity of Black self-expression.
Few in academia, or in mainstream society for that matter, took the Ebonics movement very seriously. Everyone knew that if any Black person wanted—at minimum—a job as a hotel receptionist, a customer service agent in a call center, or a clerk in a retail store, he or she would need to speak standard English. The latter was the lingua franca of business and commerce, and that was not about to change. If Blacks aspired to achieve economic parity with their compatriots, then they would have to become bilingual.
Lately, the Back to Ebonics movement has morphed into a devoutly nasty and pernicious new form. It has transmogrified into a hegemonic call to replace standard English as the norm. It regards requiring Black students to use standard English as anti-Black linguistic racism. Blacks required to speak standard English are believed to experience violence, persecution, dehumanization, and marginalization. The leader of this movement, a Black professor at the University of Michigan by the name of April Baker-Bell, has sponsored a document to abolish what she calls “White Mainstream English.” She believes that Black students who are forced to write their papers in mainstream English are victims of Anti-Black Racism.
The idea that standard English speaking and writing requirements are emotionally harmful, as Baker-Bell claims, goes beyond shallow identity politics. It is rooted also in the de-colonialist and Anti-Western civilization agendas that seek to eradicate from school curricula and educational models any European universal foundations that underlie pedagogy, method and content. If reason, logic and the idea of an objective reality are declared racist, then little need be said for why language, based on objective rules of grammar, should be seen as anything but the arbitrary imposition of Dead White Men whose goals are to marginalize the speech practices of non-white speakers of English. Baker-Bell is part of a phalanx of educators who think that grammar is racist—that is, the grammar that governs the use of standard English.
If Baker-Bell (pictured above) and the promoters of “Black English” were simply advocating non-stigmatization of the language, then few would have issue with them. It is generally not advisable to induce shame in people who experience their emotions and their identities in whatever form of language in which they communicate. Few ordinary speakers of Black English outside the academy, I believe, would go so far as to call what they speak another language. They regard Black English for what it truly is: broken English, a rendition of a type of American patois. Linguists who argue that chronic grammatical infelicities, such as verb/tense and subject/object confusion with interrogative pronouns such as who versus whom, are irrelevant as a metric for differentiating between standard English and broken English are dishonest. They are operating from the principle of some kind of political expediency or political correctness.
To indict white speakers of standard English as linguistic colonizers and imperialists is untenable and empirically false. To begin with, millions of non-white and non-native English speakers voluntarily learn the language with great zeal for the simple reason that it is the global language of trade, commerce and business. There does not seem to be any bottom-up resistance to learning English from immigrants all over the world. The resistance comes from a cabal of race hustlers who are totally fluent in standard English. Most of them have good facility with the language, and they pen their academic prose condemning standard English in eloquent English. They know that Black English is incomprehensible and unintelligible in written form—as are all forms of patois.
But why would educated Blacks who write and speak standard English as well as any white person campaign for Blacks to not have the same opportunity to achieve facility with the language? What’s in it for these race hustlers who are paid large sums of money to lecture to white progressives on how they should alter their pedagogical styles and expurgate standard English requirements from their syllabi? It is not care and concern for the well-being of Blacks. It is a struggle for power, a struggle to continue creating a vast underclass of uneducated Blacks who will speak in a manner that will render them incomprehensible and lower their intelligence quotient in the minds of those with whom they speak. The goal is to indoctrinate as many Blacks as possible to see oppression and linguistic terrorism and identity annihilation everywhere—just in case they are tempted to see opportunity and upward mobility through mastery of the English language. For these race hustlers, the contempt they have for uneducated Blacks is reprehensible. In their minds, the options are clear: either the white alt-left will exercise a coercive monopoly as a managerial vanguard over Black victimization and suffering, or they will play second fiddle in the cult of victimization.
Blacks are mere pawns for white progressives who have staked their identity on Black oppression and suffering. Such whites are moral sadists because to continue justifying their existence, they wish to see Black people suffer under racial oppression. When this official oppression ends, as it already has, they cease being the masters of time and human destiny. They are more like conservationists or racial preservationists than anything else, and they are more devoted to preserving Black authenticity, race consciousness, and the very notion of Blackness which they love to pit against and contrast with themselves, since it reinforces an exotic caste system between them and the Other. Their own whiteness is brought into sharper relief, the more authentically Black the victims and their needs appear. Devoid of any such neediness in their own aspirational leanings, they are relieved of any stains of Blackness, and hence, enjoy a sense of racial purity. In assuming responsibility for Blacks, they assume a greater share of humanity and moral agency in themselves than they do for others. They expropriate the agency of racial minorities so they can speak for them, to them, and, in essence, determine who among them is qualified to count as their racial spokesperson. Just so long as he or she plays by the racial script and respects the hierarchical ordering among the designated role of advocate and victim, all will be well. In so doing, they trespass on the autonomy of Blacks and other minorities and eviscerate them of their dignity. Their sense of superiority is unmistakable. People who regard other people as their moral equals either leave them alone to make their own way, or, when they are aggrieved, address the injustice quietly and move on after it is resolved.
The new Black race hustlers will have none of this. A strange atavistic tribalism rears its ugly head. Better for them to keep their own people downtrodden on their terms. Laboring under the aegis of a strange “white envy,” Black race hustlers such as April Baker-Bell become the new slave holders of their own people. They are the most condescending set of prejudicial narcissistic elitists who know that Blacks, if taught standard English—and a basic solid education in general—could learn adequately and prosper. But where would this leave these elitists? They would not be anything special anymore. What they fear is expanding Black excellence, for it shores up their own mediocrity and renders them powerless in the world. They have no leverage over whites unless they have makeshift victims they can parade before them and taunt them into feeling collective guilt. There is no greater hell for a Black race hustler than an empty and meaningless world, meaningless without guilty whites who exist to atone for some ill-defined sins they have committed against Blacks.
Baker-Bell’s Black English and anti-standard English agenda are gaining traction. As she gives seminars around the country on linguistic racism and eliminating white standard English altogether from society, educators take notes and make pledges to alter their teaching styles and requirements. In other words, her top-down approach is making inroads among educators and administrators who create policies. Teachers will be punished for penalizing Black students who turn in essays not written in standard English. Broken English (or Spanish or French) renders one incapable of clearly articulating one’s thought and feelings. Baker-Bell and her cohorts do not want an assembly of proud Black English speakers. Such a situation would see an unassimilable group of marginalized people who would, in a crucial way, be outside the pantheon of legitimate language users.
What the professor wants is to emancipate Blacks from standard adherence to traditional punctuation and basic mechanics of grammar and enunciation. In effect, she wants to relegate Blacks to primitive backwater swamps where they sound like grunting farm animals. She will be their interpreter. On the question of who will speak for whom, she’ll be the appointed delegate. Since she thinks we should all speak Ebonics, she’ll argue that any difficulty in understanding and appreciating Black English stems from a deep-seated proclivity for seeing white standard English as neutral, normative, and objectively superior.
The sins of her agenda go deeper. Since Black English is broken English, any attempt to elevate it to a level of superiority by demonizing standard English is an attempt to mainstream mediocrity and demonize excellence. It is an attempt to reduce everyone to a statistical average, and to the lowest common denominator. Since mastering a language is an amazing achievement that requires skill and discipline, the nihilistic and lazy impulse to dispense with rules ultimately stems from an agency that was never fully civilized. Language is one of the unifying conventions that bind us in a shared identity as a people. All Americans never will speak in Ebonics; Baker-Bell knows this. Her goal is tribal. It is for groups, really, to have their own languages and, like beggars making invidious comparisons among their sores, to vie for supremacy based on an amalgam of suffering, victimization, and iconic innocence. To convince others that the broken language is the most exalted and politically superior and least oppressive among all mainstream standard languages, is to demote excellence to the level of the sub-human and promote mediocrity to a model of artificial perfection. This is manufactured stupidity which, when codified, becomes rank stupidity. Since language is primarily a tool of cognition—one cannot think, form concepts and abstractions without formal language—the attempt to have everyone speak, and therefore think, in Ebonics is a devolutionary move; to take humanity back to the primitive stage of speech and to slide cognitively back into a primordial state of human non-development.
This agenda fits squarely with the trans-human and post human movements which, for all the vagueness surrounding their definitional status, advocates a destruction of the human condition as we know it. It finds pride of place with academic movements pushing for the de-centering and annihilation of whiteness in the universities and in corporations such as Coca-Cola.
When the moral integrity of language is undermined, with full malice aforethought, then the civic virtues that bind us as a nation-state, such as trust, social cohesion, patriotic commitment to a shared understanding of the public good, pride in country, and benevolence and good will towards our fellow compatriots, get destroyed. Factionalism and tribalism assume ascendancy. Mediocrity is enshrined. Excellence and greatness are ridiculed and demonized.
It’s not that Americans will be speaking Ebonics. It is not even the case that the majority of Black Americans will need to speak it. It is only sufficient to ensure that the language in which truth and justice, and the means of proving and protecting them, are destroyed. If the language in which the inalienability of our rights is rejected as oppressive and harmful, then the rights we enjoy will be regarded as mere privileges that were created by a bigoted minority to exclude Blacks and other minorities from the pantheon of the human community. “Rights,” therefore, will be regarded as mere social constructs that will be rearticulated according to the new Ebonics patois that, by its nature and according to its vanguards, has a built-in logic of egalitarian fairness and non-oppressiveness.
Let us not kid ourselves. Professor April Baker-Bell and her ilk are not real scholars, and their fields of studies are illegitimate. Calling for the elimination of standard English cannot be a proper field of any academic discipline. What the Governor of Michigan needs to do is sign a law into effect banning the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) policies that make it possible for welfare scholars such as Baker-Bell to be employed in higher education. This is not an infringement on academic freedom, since such work is merely hate speech and propaganda masquerading as scholarship.
If we understand that the move to raze Western civilization and make white people extinct comes in many guises, and that Baker-Bell’s demand that all Americans speak Ebonics while canceling standard English is part of a systemic and comprehensive Final Solution by avowed nihilists to genocide an entire civilization—then we won’t feel as if we are fighting lice in a vacuum in this case. We will simply be destroying part of the rot before it fully turns to fertilizer.