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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

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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Race

Young white murderers are little boys. Young Black victims are grown men.

Racism, the assumptions around Black people, and the perceptions of Black children are all baked into the fabric of this country, and Conservative White America keeps that oven turned up every single day. 

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Kyle Rittenhouse is a 17-year-old wannabe policeman who carried an AR-15 across state lines to feel masculine, patriotic, and important, and he ultimately killed two people and injured another. Former Attorney General of Florida Pam Bondi says he’s just a little boy who was protecting his community.

He wasn’t protecting his community — he lives half an hour away. He had to have his mother drive him there.

He’s not a little kid — he’ll be 18 in December, old enough to vote and go to war.

He’s not a victim — protesters wouldn’t have been chasing him if he hadn’t shown up from out of town carrying a rifle that he legally wasn’t supposed to have anyway.

This is what Conservative White America watches all day, celebrations and exaltations of white murderers contrasted with demonizations and vilifications of Black victims. And when the murderer is young, Conservative White America rallies around them to magnify their youth and exaggerate their innocence. Kyle Rittenhouse is a murderer who gets to be a “little boy” and Dylann Roof is a murderer who gets to be a “sweet kid” but our young victims don’t have that luxury.

Michael Brown was 18 years old.

His murderer, who is the same height as Michael Brown, said he wasn’t a boy — he was a demon — and it was like wrestling with Hulk Hogan. (x)

Trayvon Martin was 17 years old.

He was walking home from the store when his murderer decided to stalk him, confront him, and then kill him because he was afraid of a child. (x)

Tamir Rice was 12 years old.

He and Kyle Rittenhouse are similar in that they were both carrying guns. Of course, Tamir’s was a toy and he was shot seconds after officers saw it, because what they thought they saw was a grown man carrying a deadly weapon. Officers on the scene said he was “maybe 20.” (x)

Law enforcement starts to see Black children as older than white children starting around 10 years old. After that, Black children have an extra four years tacked on to their age (on average), and when that Black child is accused of a crime, he’s more likely to be assumed guilty.

“Children in most societies are considered to be in a distinct group with characteristics such as innocence and the need for protection. Our research found that black boys can be seen as responsible for their actions at an age when white boys still benefit from the assumption that children are essentially innocent,” said author Phillip Atiba Goff, PhD, of the University of California, Los Angeles. The study was published online in APA’s Journal of Personality and Social Psychology®.

(cont. American Psychological Association)

We talk about defunding the police in the context of unlawful police shootings and racially motivated police brutality, and the counterarguments focus on reforming the police instead: They just need more training. They just need to learn more de-escalation strategies. There’s no training that will change 400 years of racially charged propaganda that has painted Black people, males especially, as aggressive, criminal, brutes. There’s no training that will suddenly make police officers see Black children as Black children when 400 years of media and history has painted Black kids as older and more dangerous than they are because Black people in general are framed as more dangerous and more aggressive than white people. Racism, the assumptions around Black people, and the perceptions of Black children are all baked into the fabric of this country, and Conservative White America keeps that oven turned up every single day.

 

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Race

Black people cannot sway an election.

Handwringing by Embarrassed Whites over the Black vote has to die. Y’all lost the 2016 election because you didn’t do enough to convince your families and social circles that Trump would destroy the country.

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There’s a white lady on Twitter with a very long thread about the 2016 election that I am absolutely not going to read, because all I needed was this:

In case she deletes the tweet, because sometimes people do that online when they’re getting dragged, Claire Berlinski said Donald Trump would not be President if Black people who voted for Obama had turned out in the same numbers for Hillary. I see variations of that all the time, trying to shift the blame for Trump onto Black people instead of examining it where it lay, with racist whites. White people blaming us for the election are embarrassed to be associated with them, so they deflect, but Black people don’t exist in large enough numbers to have the kind of impact these Embarrassed Whites want to imagine. Very very simple math proves this, so let’s just get it out of the way up top.

In 2016, 11% of Black people who had voted for Obama didn’t vote at all. 12% of white people who had voted for Obama voted for Trump. The US population is 63.4% white and 13.4% Black. There are almost five times as many white people in this country as Black people, so let’s apply that to the graph she posted.

2016

For simpler math, say the top bar shows 100 white people, which would mean the bottom bar would show 21 Black people, because that’s our ratio in this country. You see where this is going already I’m sure. This means 12 white Obama voters voted for Trump while TWO Black Obama voters didn’t vote at all. Embarrassed Whites want to shift blame from 12 white people to 2 Black people because it makes them feel better about not addressing politics with their relatives and acquaintances.

That part is factual — the original graph is from an article on the Washington Post. What I’m about to say next is more conjecture based on common knowledge that’s already out there because I don’t have the research background (time, really) to pull the numbers on all of this. Take what you know about gerrymandering, about housing discrimination, and about redlining, and apply that to the numbers. We don’t have a 1 person = 1 vote system. We have an electoral system where 100 people are consolidated into 1 vote based on who the majority of that 100 wanted.

51 people vote A. 49 people vote B. A wins.
51 people vote A. 49 people vote B. A wins again.
10 people vote A. 90 people vote B. B wins.

The votes are 112 to 188, but A wins the whole shebang because A won twice.  (That’s how Trump won.) Because of the aforementioned gerrymandering, housing discrimination, and redlining, most of the Black people are sitting in the 90 person block of people who voted for B. Every Black person in America could have voted in 2016, and it would not have had the effect on the election that Embarrassed Whites like to pretend it would have because the US electoral system has consolidated our voting power into tiny blocs cordoned off from the rest of the population.

Harlem is going to vote Democrat. The equivalent of Harlem in Dallas or Birmingham or Memphis is going to vote Democrat. You can convince another few thousand Black people to go vote for your candidate in the Harlems across the country, and it didn’t do anything to tip the balance of the election because Candidate A has still won two contests. It’s only increasing the margin of victory for Candidate B in one result. There aren’t enough Black people in these 95% white voting districts (dotted all across the country in red states with more cows than people) to say, “well if Black people voted we wouldn’t be here.” You’ll have one extra Black vote in Montana for every 20 extra Black votes in Harlem.

Handwringing by Embarrassed Whites over the Black vote has to die. Y’all lost the 2016 election because you didn’t do enough to convince your families and social circles that Trump would destroy the country. You are going to lose the 2020 election for that same reason if you keep worrying about what we are doing over here. Spend less time focusing on Black turnout and more time convincing your communities that they need to go vote. Ours has been taken advantage of, disappointed enough, and blamed so many times that we have honestly earned the right to say “screw this, y’all fix it, I’m tired.”

 

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