Occasionally I read the Fred on Everything column. He generally makes you laugh over his hardheadedness. He brings up a lot of points, biased ones, as well as points that are worth considering.
Having taught, admittedly only for a short while, in a school predominantly populated with kids who came from families that were traditionally blue collar — and you know what has happened to most of the blue-collar jobs in this country. They have been downgraded, cheapened, and disappeared. The relative pay for the jobs that are left has decreased to the point of being laughable. (Joe Smith started the day early having set his alarm clock (MADE IN JAPAN) for 6 a.m. While his coffeepot (MADE IN CHINA) was perking, he shaved with his electric razor (MADE IN HONG KONG). He put on a dress shirt (MADE IN SRI LANKA), designer jeans (MADE IN SINGAPORE) and tennis shoes (MADE IN KOREA).
After cooking his breakfast in his new electric skillet (MADE IN INDIA) he sat down with his calculator (MADE IN MEXICO) to see how much he could spend today. After setting his watch (MADE IN TAIWAN) to the radio (MADE IN INDIA) he got in his car (MADE IN GERMANY) and continued his search for a good paying AMERICAN JOB.
At the end of yet another discouraging and fruitless day, Joe decided to relax for a while. He put on his sandals (MADE IN BRAZIL) poured himself a glass of wine (MADE IN FRANCE) and turned on his TV (MADE IN INDONESIA), and then wondered why he can’t find a good paying job in…..AMERICA….. – Jim Ewart) There were a few black kids in that school, and quite a few racially mixed, though the white kids were in the majority. Most of the children in that school, both black and white, came from families that had never considered an education to be an escape from poverty. There were kids who announced with pride that they never read anything, and no one was going to be able to make them read anything. And when I look at the high cost of obtaining a college degree, with its attendant debt that can last a lifetime, I wonder if perhaps those kids weren’t on to something.
His article claims that the reason black kids — or indeed any poor kids — don’t make it through our school system and win scholarships is that they don’t apply themselves, which is a shame. However, there is another side to that coin. The fact that when a student from a low-income family does apply himself, and shows that he is mentally creative and intelligent, carrying consistently high grades and meeting all the requirements to win a scholarship, the teachers turn up their noses and say that if they gave it to him, he would not know what to do with it. Instead, they give it to a child from a more well-to-do family, even if that child does not demonstrate the talent and ability that the boy from the poor home does. Doesn’t that just warm the cockles of your heart?
I have seen teachers insist that their black students are not capable of doing advanced credit work, even when they show every sign that they can — including keeping their grades up. I have also seen black students who were so cowed by their school experiences that they were afraid to show even one spark of creativity. They had been sometimes brutally taught that everything they did had to be by the book, because they would otherwise lose grade points.
Still, Fred makes a good point where Ebonics are concerned. As with any other form of slang in the English language, it is a sign of belonging to a group. As such, there is nothing wrong with it. However, that does not mean that the speakers of said slang cannot or should not be able to speak and use standard English. He is right when he says that Black people who live in nearly every other country in the world speak the dominant language, and speak it well. There is nothing wrong with their ability to communicate. Many European Black people speak several languages. This is not a sign that they lack intelligence.
A note on the side: I have written memoirs for a few black women. Each of them, when referring to their mother, spoke of her as Mama. To my mind, that term is a form of endearment. It sounded sweet to my ears. And because that was the way they spoke, that was the term I used when I wrote the rough draft of their memoirs. I do try to use words and phrases my clients would be likely to use, so that the finished book sounds as though he or she could have written it. Almost as soon as they received these drafts, they called me back to say, “Where did you get that word Mama? it sounds uneducated. Use Mother.” You see, they want to sound educated.
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