African American Literacies

By Elaine Richardson | Go to book overview

4

African American-centered rhetoric, composition, and literacy: theory and research

Tantamount to the effectiveness of any second-dialect pedagogy designed for Black English Vernacular Speakers (and especially adult BEV speakers) is a considerable amount of “debrainwashing” (for both student and teacher) regarding cultural differences, particularly as these apply to social differences in the use of language. The stigma which American society attaches to identifiably Black patterns of behavior (of which Black language behavior is but one) must be openly and honestly confronted by both student and teacher, before the desired attitudinal changes can be effected which are necessary for productive classroom interaction. More specifically, the student (and his teacher) must be helped toward an appreciation of his native dialect, Black English, as a unique and valid linguistic system; he must be enabled to throw off unfounded and injurious notions about his dialect as “non-language” or, at best, “incorrect” or pathological English, indicative of inferior intelligence. This debrainwashing away from such negative psychologically debilitating attitudes toward his native dialect must occur before productive use can be made of that dialect in the instructional process.

(Reed, 1973:290)


Brief theoretical overview

Theoretically, my approach can be called Afrocentric, or more specifically, African American-centered. In the context of this work, African American-centered means that I cull ideas, knowledge, data, strategies, and experiences from the epistemologies found in analyses of African American rhetorical, cultural, and literacy traditions (some of which I presented in Chapter 2). I use these as a basis for teaching rhetoric and composition. As an African American-centered teacher-researcher, my task is to connect students to these discourses,

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