Black Lives Matter movement has spread its influence to even those corners of life which are not usually associated with social justice. The latest group to join the bandwagon of revisionism for supposedly achieving social equality is that of English professors in USA academia. Five of them, all African-Americans, along with a scholar, have come up with a set of demands for achieving 'Black Linguistic Justice.'
What this group – the 'Why We Cain't Breathe!' subcommittee of the Conference on College Composition organization – is essentially saying is that the standard or most widely accepted form of English is the one spoken by white people of the English-speaking world. These professors want the English, as spoken by Blacks, to be given equal respect and granted equal acceptance.
Professors and their demands
The five professors involved in this project are Bonnie Williams-Farrier of Cal State University; Davena Jackson of Boston University; Carmen Kynard of Texas Christian University; April Baker-Bell and Lamar Johnson from Michigan State University. These five have produced the set of demands which they want to be accepted by the American academic universe.
These demands are:
- That teachers stop using academic language and standard English as the accepted communicative norm, which reflects white mainstream English.
- That teachers stop teaching black students to code-switch! Instead, we must teach black students about anti-black linguistic racism and white linguistic supremacy.
- That political discussions and Praxis Center Black Language as teacher-researcher activism for classrooms and communities.
- (That there be) black linguistic consciousness.
- That black dispositions are centered in the research and teaching of black language.
In their statement, they also referred to the larger Black Lives Matter movement and criticized those people in the academia who have opposed it. They accuse people working in the education sector of having "anti-Black skeletons in their cupboard."
They draw a link between the language used in academic courses and the marginalization of the black community. Over the last few decades, the project of decolonizing academic courses has developed a great fan following. These five professors also use the term 'de-colonizing' in their presentation. Though, in their case, the emphasis is more on promoting the lingo used by the black community of the USA.
This is an interesting argument but there are problems with it. It can be argued that the standard English doesn't just discriminate against blacks but even those people who speak in their regional accents. Be it England or USA, there are myriad variations in the pronunciation of many words and construction of sentences. So, the conception of standard English may well be unrelated to race and more to do with class.