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Why don’t we say “Ebonics” anymore?

Many of us still cringe when we hear the term “Ebonics” because white people pitched a fit in 1996 and we’re still dealing with it. So we say “AAVE” now. 

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Ebonics is trending on Twitter right now and I stuck my head in real quick to see what the fuss was about. I ended up writing a little thread about it because, when I was growing up, I remember “Ebonics” as a term, and then it just sort of disappeared. Now everybody says AAVE (African American Vernacular English) and Ebonics is almost a bad word. Black people don’t use it. Linguists don’t use it. But what happened to it?

Oakland happened.

If you have a negative reaction to the word “Ebonics,” you’re not alone. A lot of people, especially those who were paying attention to the news in the mid-1990s, have the same reaction, but let’s go back to the 70s.

Robert Williams, a Black psychologist, came up with the term “Ebonics” in 1973 as a combination of ebony and phonics to give a new name for the way many Black Americans speak. Before that, the most widely used term was “nonstandard Negro English” which sounds like Black people took English and messed it up. It’s nonstandard communication. It’s wrong because it’s not regular English. Ebonics, on the other hand, is its own word with no relation to “English” as a term.

Researchers and educators have put a lot of effort into studying the racial achievement gap for decades, but especially since the integration of schools. There are a lot of factors that contribute to this educational environment where Black kids don’t succeed at the same rate as white kids, and most of them are roadblocks stemming from racism in America — poverty, school funding, class size, over-disciplining, etc.  Ebonics was thought to be another factor. The language white children hear at home is the language they hear in schools and the language on standardized testing. Black children hear Ebonics at home, and when they come to school, they’re just told the way they speak is wrong, without any context for why or how to code-switch.

It’s like Black kids grow up learning to make waffles, but white kids grow up learning to make pancakes, and school is IHOP — they know exactly how to do it when they get there, but Black kids will have to make an adjustment. The theory was proven in experiments where white kids were given standardized tests sprinkled with Ebonics, but with the same subject matter as before. Suddenly, white kids did terribly and Black kids excelled — white kids didn’t know how to make waffles.

Perhaps more important, the teachers didn’t know how to make waffles either, and the American education system would rather punish than instruct. The research started to come to a head in the late 80s and early 90s when teachers started to realize (notice?) that there was a disproportionate number of Black kids in special ed classes and classes for “bad” kids, but they were no less intelligent than their white counterparts. Teachers saw Ebonics as incorrect or broken English, and Black kids were punished for it.

Now we take a detour to…Norway!

There are a lot of Norwegian dialects and there’s not necessarily a standard spoken version the way we have standard American English or standard British English. In school, you learn a standard written version, but when kids come in with their own dialect, they’re not told that it’s wrong and punished for it. They’re taught to relate their dialect to the standard. You make waffles at home, and this is how we will modify that to make pancakes.

Oakland decided to try out a Norwegian model when Black kids came to school speaking Ebonics. Instead of telling them they were wrong, they proposed  a more instructive approach where they can relate it to English. Instead of punishing Black kids for making waffles, Oakland wanted their teachers to know how to make waffles so they could help the kids turn their waffles into pancakes. Waffles aren’t bad, but you’ll have to know how to make pancakes. 

That’s an important point. Part of the reason Black kids would do poorly on certain tests is the fault of the teachers misunderstanding what the kids themselves were conveying, because the teachers didn’t know the rules of Ebonics.

This was the goal:

“At home, you might say she scared but here we don’t drop the verb “to be” so it’s She is scared.

This had been the standard before:

She scared…what? What did she scare? Nothing – we are talking about her being scared of something so She IS scared and you are wrong,” without any explanation why.

Oakland had a sound proposal backed by research, but White America lost their proverbial **** over it. Thousands and thousands of news articles were written about Oakland wanting to teach Ebonics to the kids, and Liberals and Conservatives alike agreed that was a terrible idea. Famous Black people weighed in and agreed it was a terrible idea. And you know what? It’s not a great idea. Why teach something in school that will put you at a disadvantage later in life?

But that wasn’t the idea! No one in Oakland was proposing that at all. Why would they need to teach kids Ebonics when the kids already know Ebonics? The goal was to use the language they know — the rules and syntax of language they’re fluent in — as a foundation to build upon.

Oakland is saying They already know how to make waffles, so we can alter that to help them make pancakes.

White America heard Everybody has to make waffles now and they were enraged. The issue made it all the way to Congress where they ended up passing legislation to strip federal funding for schools that tried to implement any recognition of Ebonics in the classroom. The “fear” of Ebonics was so great, The New York Times famously ran this ad (for free) from a head start organization:

ihas

Note: That’s not even correct Ebonics because that subject/verb doesn’t agree in any pattern of how we speak. This is clearly another instance of white people outside of their lane in a weak attempt to make a point.

Ebonics became a bad word, Oakland gave up on their very reasonable proposal, and no school district since has ever tried to implement recognition of Ebonics as a valid form of communication. As with so many things in the US, White America had a knee-jerk reaction to another perceived threat to white supremacy, this time in the form of Black people having our own language recognized and validated in an attempt to give our kids greater code-switching tools.

And now many of us still cringe when we hear the term “Ebonics” because white people pitched a fit in 1996 and we’re still dealing with it. So we say “AAVE” now.

 

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Race

I love Black people.

Why does that offend so many white people?

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I’ve randomly said “I love Black people!” on many social media platforms over the years and never really thought twice about it. Something will happen, I’ll post it, other Black people will comment in agreement, and that’s that. Some white people will even like the post because whatever I’m referring to is something they appreciated reading or seeing or experiencing with us.

There’s this white guy in my comments today asking why certain things are okay for Black people to say, but not for white people. For example, if we say “I love Black people!” it’s fine, but if white people say “I love white people!” there’s automatic blowback. He seemed genuine enough, though young and a little misguided, so I engaged. I used to engage all the time when I did that kind of thing to pay my rent, but now I rarely expend mental energy online trying to teach white people I don’t know (for free!). This got me thinking because it just hasn’t come up in conversation before.

First of all, Black people and white people move through society completely differently. Different rules apply in how we are allowed to communicate because different rules were created for how we are treated. If you are a white person who purports to be on the side of progress, be less concerned about why Black people can say things white people can’t, and be more concerned with creating an equitable society where we wouldn’t even want or need to.

Alongside that, I’m just so curious where that impulse comes from to even question it.

When I say “I love Black people!” it’s because I felt something that I knew a lot of other Black people were feeling at the exact same time. Some shared cultural experience across a wide swath of the community made me laugh, or I felt bonded by a hardship we can all relate to because we’re Black in America.

When I say “I love Black people!” I feel proud of us for overcoming and achieving something, or I’m in awe of us for finding joy in the face of everything this country has thrown at us.

When I say “I love Black people!” I’m not saying I don’t love other people. I’m having a moment within myself and with my community where I feel a kinship in struggle or excitement or some combination of emotions that I know a lot of other Black people are also feeling.

So when white people ask why they can’t say “I love white people!” it’s not that I mind that they love white people, I’m just curious about what particular instance made you want to say it? What happened that made you feel so connected in a shared experience with White America? I’m not white, so I don’t know for sure, (and if any white people have any comments that are especially insightful, I’ll edit them into the end of this post), but I don’t see a “white community” bonded together by anything in this country other than a shared history of oppressing everybody else. That’s not a read, that’s just me looking from the outside and observing how white people relate to the “white community” at large. When you are the dominant force in a society, everything is just yours in a way, so you don’t need to fight to hold on to anything. Black people have had to fight together against….well, the “white community” for the past four centuries. We are bonded by everything that fight has entailed and the legacy it has left us. What do white people have?

If you are a white person reading this and you have had the urge to say “I love white people!” I would like to know what happened and what the feeling was like. I’ll give you some examples.

When I saw Nia Dennis’s very Black floor routine for the UCLA gymnastics team, I said “I love Black people!”

When I saw this old video of a group of Black men watching Whitney Houston sing the National Anthem and how they were going so hard for her, I said “I love Black people!”

When I see Black Twitter laughing at Shay Moore’s videos of life in the South, I say “I love Black people!”

White people, if any of you have these moments where you feel so proud to be white that you want to exclaim “I love white people!” for other white people to read/hear and join in, let me know. That’s not a set-up. I’m just genuinely curious how people whose history isn’t defined by oppression relate to the rest of their skinfolk with a sense of pride, and how a need to affirm each other in a country that continually questions their worth would manifest itself in statements of love and appreciation.

(Okay…my question does sound like a set-up to get dragged now, but I just kept typing and the words kept coming.)

 

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Race

Hank Aaron’s Guinness World Record

His record isn’t for what you think it is.

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Baseball great Hank Aaron passed away today and I went into a quick dive into his life after reading this excellent write up by the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

A Hall of Famer, Atlanta’s first professional sports star, and, in a soft-spoken way, an agent of change in the post-Jim Crow South, Aaron came to embody the city as he embodied the Braves.

Baseball’s all-time home run king died Friday at the age of 86, according to Channel 2 Action News and several reports. The Braves have not confirmed Aaron’s death.

“I don’t think too many people got a chance to know me through the years, and that was something that was my own doing, because I’m actually kind of a loner, a guy that has stayed to himself,” Aaron said in a 2006 interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “A lot of people thought they knew me, but they really didn’t.

“They pretend that they know me, but I travel alone. I do just about everything alone. I have associates, but I don’t have many friends. I would just want to be remembered as somebody who just tried to be fair with people.”

(cont. AJC)

I grew up in a basketball and football household, but my dad kept up with baseball and I went to a handful of Braves games growing up. Hank Aaron was just kind of a vague figure in the back of my mind, someone I knew had a lot of home runs, but that’s about all I knew about the man. The AJC paints a vivid picture of a soft-spoken Black man in the Deep South navigating his way through baseball during the Civil Rights Era, and it’s an engaging read from top to bottom. This particular section jumped out at me:

Aaron had eight seasons with 40 or more home runs, the last coming in 1973, when he finished the year with 713 homers and an estimated 930,000 pieces of mail. Much of it was racist. There also were enough death threats for the FBI to get involved. Aaron received personal protection through the off-season.

That’s like 3,000 pieces of mail a day! I did a quick dive into it so let’s set the scene.

Babe Ruth played baseball from 1914 to 1935, and interestingly enough, while I most associate him with the NY Yankees, he started and ended his career in Boston. He set numerous baseball records (two of which still stand today) and in 1936, he was one of the inaugural five members of the Baseball Hall of Fame. He’s one of the greatest sports heroes of all time, Trump gave him a Medal of Freedom in 2018, and the official candy bar of Major League Baseball bears his name (even though it wasn’t created for him, it became inextricably associated with him during the height of his fame). He also hit 714 home runs in his career, a record which stood for almost four decades until Hank Aaron came along.

By the early 70s, Hank Aaron had been quietly chipping away at Babe Ruth’s home run record for twenty years, first with the Milwaukee Braves and then in Atlanta when the team moved to Georgia in 1965. At the end of the 1972 season, Hank had 673 home runs, and for a player who already had eight seasons where he hit 40 or more home runs, it was assumed he would indeed break Babe Ruth’s record of 714 in the very near future. Baseball fans follow the game, so baseball fans were aware of Hank’s hitting stats. Racist America follows notable Black people, and this Black man putting himself within striking distance of a white man’s achievement made the country take note. The amount of hate mail spiked once non fans became aware of Hank’s threat to a record they didn’t even really care about until it was in danger of being broken by a Black player.

On July 21st of 1973, Hank Aaron hit #700 and he was receiving about 3,000 pieces of mail a day. The Braves hired a secretary just to handle Hank’s mail, and team management forbid him from opening his own letters to shield him from the vitriol.

The volume was so great that the Braves assigned secretary Carla Koplin to handle Aaron’s mail. That freed up his time but also shielded the legendary slugger from some of the vile remarks and death threats aimed at him. There were also some congratulatory letters and words of encouragement, but the negative comments heavily outweighed the positive and the Braves gave Aaron his own security detail.

“I was forbidden to open mail for two and a half years. I had a secretary that had to open all my mail and when the games were over with, I had to go out of the back of the baseball parks.”

(cont. Sportscasting)

When the season ended in October, Hank had 713 home runs, one shy of the record. The next six months gave racist America ample time to seethe and write. Hate mail turned to death threats and anyone remotely supportive of Hank was a target.

Lewis Grizzard, then sports editor of the Atlanta Journal, reported receiving numerous phone calls calling journalists “nigger lovers” for covering Aaron’s chase. While preparing the massive coverage of the home run record, he quietly had an obituary written, afraid that Aaron might be murdered.

(cont. Hank Aaron)

Hank Aaron made it to the 1974 season and broke Babe Ruth’s record in Atlanta on April 8th. Between July 1973 and June 1974, Hank Aaron received over 930,000 pieces of mail, the most ever for a private citizen, and a record that still stands today. When I saw that Hank Aaron had a Guinness World Record, I assumed it was for home runs, but his record was broken by Barry Bonds in 2007. Hank has a world record not for baseball, but for racism — America’s other great pastime.

 

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Race

Dean Browning…Dan Purdy…and a plot twist!

Blackfishing took a wild ride today!

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Pay close attention, because this is a rollercoaster!

In case you don’t know what blackfishing is, the term was first applied to white Instagram “models” who augment their looks to such a degree that they try to pass as light-skinned or biracial Black women for clout and sponsorships from Black brands. Here’s Swedish Instagram model Emma Hallberg for reference:

We’ve also been witness to the rise of white people in academic or activist circles posing as Black people or people of color to give their points of view more weight. Rachel Dolezal is the poster-child, but we’ve seen a number of professors — Jessica Krug and Craig Chapman most notably — outed this year for being just regular ol’ white folks pretending to be minorities.

Further down that chain we have anonymous accounts on social media pretending to be Black people. White racists and Conservatives from across MAGA Nation pretend to be Black online so they can spew racist views from a “Black” person and have their words picked up by the masses.

It’s not a racist white man saying Black people are violent criminals! It’s one of their own so it must be true!

Today…one got found out…and it has truly been a ride. Buckle up for safety!

This is Dean Browning.

His Twitter bio says “Former Lehigh County Commissioner. A proud pro-life & pro-2A Christian conservative dedicated to enacting common sense solutions to Keep America Great.” Check out this deleted conversation from earlier today.

The first one seems like something a Conservative from Pennsylvania would say, but then he forgot to log out of his regular account and into his “anonymous” account before chiming in with a voice from the Black community. Twitter quickly lit his ass up and he went viral because that’s the kind of mistake you rarely see. Dean deleted the tweet, but screencaps are forever, so he tried to mitigate the damage with a weak I was quoting someone else excuse.

But that doesn’t feel right, because this Dan Purdy is clearly a fake account that uses the “I’m Black and gay!” line over and over to make his terrible points stick.

But wait!  The real Dan Purdy has decided to weigh in!

https://twitter.com/DanPurdy322/status/1326283962503794689

If he deletes that, someone let me know and I’ll upload the video because of course I saved it just in case.

EDIT: His account is already suspended so here’s the video.

 

So what’s going on here? Did Dan Purdy really reach out to Dean Browning and express that opinion? It’s hard to fight visual evidence, but the Internet does not take such revelations lightly and some people believe Dean hired an actor to make that video. I’m not saying I believe it, but it’s hard to argue with the fact that this isn’t even the first fake Dan Purdy account. The first one got suspended and that one didn’t even pretend to be gay and Black initially: It was a white man going by Pat Riarchy

So it looks like this man in the video is just some random guy Dean Browning found to cover his ass.

Except! Except! We can find that guy, with the same avatar and everything, on Facebook and his name is William “Byl” Holte.

OK. So. There’s a guy by the name of Byl Holte who has been posing under the name Dan Purdy online, first as a white MAGA patriot that got suspended from the platform. In his current iteration, he is indeed Black and gay, but still Conservative, and sent a message of support to his friend, good ol’ Dean, who copy/pasted directly instead of adding any quotations.

I think that’s what happened here.

Oh one more thing: Do you know any famous people with the last name Holte? The only one I can think of is Patricia Holte, who now goes by Patti Labelle. Right, that’s the thing — William is her son!

MISS PATTI WE NEED A SONG ABOUT THIS!

WHERE ARE MY BACKUP SINGERS!

 

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