Articulate While Black: Barack Obama, Language, and Race in the U.S.

By H. Samy Alim; Geneva Smitherman | Go to book overview

6
Change the Game
Language, Education, and
the Cruel Fallout of Racism

None of us—black, white, Latino, or Asian—is immune
to the stereotypes that our culture continues to feed
us, especially stereotypes about black criminality, black
intelligence, or the black work ethic. In general, members
of every minority group continue to be measured largely
by the degree of our assimilation—how closely speech
patterns, dress, or demeanor conform to the dominant
white culture—and the more that a minority strays from
these external markers, the more he or she is subject to
negative assumptions.1

—Barack Obama

The language, only the language…. It is the thing that
black people love so much—the saying of words, holding
them on the tongue, experimenting with them, playing
with them. It’s a love, a passion. Its function is like a
preacher’s: to make you stand up out of your seat, make
you lose yourself and hear yourself. The worst of all
possible things that could happen would be to lose that
language…. It’s terrible to think that a child with five
different present tenses comes to school to be faced with
books that are less than his own language. And then to
be told things about his language, which is him, that are
sometimes permanently damaging…. This is a really cruel
fallout of racism.2

—Toni Morrison

Over the last few years, we have been contacted by journalists seeking “expert” linguistic opinions on President Obama’s speech. Early into Obama’s first term, a writer for one of the more progressive Internet news websites asked us if we would comment on the “growing trend” of Black parents wanting their children not to “be like Mike” but rather to

-167-

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Articulate While Black: Barack Obama, Language, and Race in the U.S.
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Foreword- Orator-in-Chief ix
  • Showin Love xv
  • 1 - "Nah, We Straight" 1
  • 2 - A.W.B. (Articulate While Black) 31
  • 3 - Makin a Way Outta No Way 64
  • 4 - "The Fist Bump Heard ‘Round the World" 94
  • 5 - "My President’s Black, My Lambo’s Blue" 130
  • 6 - Change the Game 167
  • Index 199
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