The 90’s gave birth to many things we pre 9/11 kids miss, but one often overlooked 90’s reality was the recognition of Ebonics (Ebony Phonics) as the official native language of African Americans by the Oakland, CA School Board in 1996.
Today, Ebonics is known as African American Vernacular English (AAVE). If either term sounds unfamiliar to you, trust me it isn’t.
I’d go so far to say you’ve been exposed to AAVE your entire life, from the moment you were conscious enough to watch TV.
Don’t believe me? Just take a look at this list:
Does anything look familiar to you?
If so, it’s largely thanks to pop culture and the Internet.
Black people have contributed to nearly every cultural thing you’ve ever liked. Specifically, black vernacular has contributed to some of your most beloved:
Social media alone would be a drastically different space were it not for AAVE. Black people have entire worlds via Twitter and Tumblr, but that doesn’t mean our language stays in-house.
Many articles have called out the appropriation of AAVE by nonblack people. I agree that using AAVE for your own monetary gain (Iggy Azalea) without giving credit to and showing love for black people (Iggy Azalea), is offensive and should be considered a gross theft.
But isn’t America all about mixing it up? Sharing cultures and trying new things and adventure and stuff?
Sure sure! But America also has a history of mocking, imitating, stealing, possessing, and then erasing the origins.
Isn’t it interesting that AAVE is a facet in almost every type of media and used by nearly everyone, yet most people are unfamiliar with the term, and those that are don’t believe in its validity or importance?
When I fill out an application, I cannot say I’m bilingual. Even though my fluency in AAVE is useful in my field (journalism requires excellent interviewing, social media skills, and trend awareness), I cannot write “native/fluent in AAVE”. It wouldn’t be taken seriously, and neither would I as a potential job candidate.
Black Americans have created an entire way of speaking. AAVE has its own spelling, grammatical rules, and pronunciations. Even though nonblack people perform AAVE, it is not a performance.
My use of AAVE in public spaces can receive shock, amusement, distain, confusion, but never respect.
Like all that we know of American popular culture, black culture is deeply loved. Black intelligence is not.