Beyond Ebonics: Linguistic Pride and Racial Prejudice

Beyond Ebonics: Linguistic Pride and Racial Prejudice

Beyond Ebonics: Linguistic Pride and Racial Prejudice

Beyond Ebonics: Linguistic Pride and Racial Prejudice

Synopsis

The media frenzy surrounding the 1996 resolution by the Oakland School Board brought public attention to the term "Ebonics", however the idea remains a mystery to most. John Baugh, a well-known African-American linguist and education expert, offers an accessible explanation of the origins of the term, the linguistic reality behind the hype, and the politics behind the outcry on both sides of the debate. Using a non-technical, first-person style, and bringing in many of his own personal experiences, Baugh debunks many commonly-held notions about the way African-Americans speak English, and the result is a nuanced and balanced portrait of a fraught subject. This volume should appeal to students and scholars in anthropology, linguistics, education, urban studies, and African-American studies.

Excerpt

Why now a book on Ebonics? Hasn't uproar about Ebonics come and gone, a flash in the pan? Yes, but the flash illuminated something in our lives that is still with us, an entanglement of preconceptions about language, race, and fairness that does not go away, that continues to bedevil education and public life. John Baugh patiently traces the early history of the notion, the diverse response when it became a national issue, and how much remains unresolved.

Baugh writes from an especially valuable vantage point. He is trained in sociolinguistics, indeed a prominent figure in the field, known for his own careful study of African American speech and his participation with others in scholarly overviews. He himself is African American, able to draw on his own experience, while speaking matter of factly of being a descendant of slaves. It is especially telling, then, when he faces the continuing power of ignorance and prejudice in our midst.

Most educated people, probably most people, feel they already know what they need to know about language, opportunity, and accomplishment. Most people seem to find it comfortable to think of differences in speech and writing in terms of just two categories, good and . . .

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