What's So Wrong With AAE?
African American English (AAE) has been derided since it was established in the coordinated, collective torture of my ancestors in this land. It is a code that is shared by many, but not all, Black descendants of enslaved Africans in the US. It is a part of our heritage; it is the story of our shared struggle. It is a cultural marker--a way of showing solidarity with a community that has been subjected to unspeakable oppression (past and present) in this country. Instead of being respected as a valid form of communication and cultural identity, it is regularly dismissed as an indicator of a lack of intelligence.
This could not be further from the truth.
AAE is a rule-governed system. It is a grammatical code just like any other.
There is absolutely nothing inherently wrong with speaking AAE. It is simply a different code: no better, no worse.
Just. Different. But because of the group with which it is associated it often leads speakers of Mainstream English to highly negative assumptions. Speakers of AAE may be seen as less than, ignorant, inappropriate, disrespectful, or even aggressive. The use of a AAE is often ushered out of educational spaces and contexts and relegated to the margins of society--the very same position often assigned to low income, Black communities. Speakers of AAE are often subjected to linguicism, or discrimination based on language or dialect. Research has shown that speakers of AAE are often excluded from consideration for housing, work, educational opportunities, and more.
It is not just the presence of AAE that is seen as an issue by speakers of Mainstream English. It is, all too often, the very presence of BLACKNESS that is seen as an issue in mainstream society. This is why we have to do some soul searching and hold difficult conversations about race and class and linguicism with our neighbors, friends, parents, children, students, colleagues, etc. It is necessary to validate AAE among speakers and nonspeakers alike. In this way, perhaps we can work toward a day when the way in which a person speaks is not regarded as some sort of indicator of their cognitive prowess or their value as a human being.