Black Bodies, Black Language: Exploring the Use of Black Language as a Tool of Survival in the Writing Center

Wonderful Faison

Introduction

When I began writing this paper, I decided to let my dad read an early draft. My father reads everything I attempt to publish because (1) his opinion of my writing and my work with writing matter greatly to me and (2) he remains a connection—and intermediary—between the academic world and the blue collar working class background I am from. As an intermediary, my father (and my mother to some degree) raised me to believe three things: (1) as a Black person in the U.S., I would be treated differently because of my skin color, (2) because I was a black female, education was my only way out; however, even being highly educated would not protect me from being the subject of constant scrutiny, so (3) I should wrap myself in the comforts of my Black culture. Working at a WC in a Predominantly White Institution (PWI) located in the Midwest, I often found I wrapped myself in the language of my culture not as an act of defiance, but as an act of resistance and survival, even knowing the WC (in theory) purported to be a safe and inclusive space.

The idea of safe spaces, or the home as a safe space, carries a myriad of connotations—connotations that bring up ideas, or rather memories and emotions, of youth, of adulthood, of comfort, of safety. These are, no doubt, good things about home. But homes (as safe spaces) are also triggers: they exclude, they omit, and they imprison through un-nuanced ideologies about whom can enter and how long an individual can stay, all while justifying why that person is ultimately kicked out or forced to leave home. Fox with Ore (2010) noted her “experience of a safe space…was based on spaces secured by omission, exclusion or violence, and on my submitting to the limits of that space” (p. 630). But what are the limits of the Writing Center (WC) space? What are the exclusions that create safety for a set or sets of people and hostility for another set or sets of people? How does the physical embodiment or identity, as well as the language of the WC as comfortable and inclusive, impact the identity and the language of the black tutor?

Resting in discomfort: the institutionalization of anti-institute

To achieve a look or feeling of comfort, “writing center spaces tend to be marked with particular objects to achieve a certain mood, serve specific purposes, or send a particular message to those who use the space. Having couches or photos or coffeepots [sic] is an effort to construct a space different from classrooms and other impersonal spaces” (Grutsch-McKinney, 2005, p.7). However, this tired trope of linguistically positioning the WC as a comfortable home away from home insulates (rhetorically) the WC and WC Studies from interrogating its complicity in reproducing systemic inequities, i.e. racism, sexism, homophobia, classicism, etc. The language that we use about WC work, is privileged in WC work, and the rhetorical strategies used to justify this work not only constitutes an ideological positioning, but also works to actively hide that positioning.

As such, one cannot unlink the spaces of the WC from the language that we use to describe and practice the work within them. This linguistic and rhetorical positioning is not uncommon as people, broadly, and the WC, specifically, “use language to shape the ways in which others see us” (Young and Rivera, 2013, “You are what you speak”). How the writing center orchestrates its desired visibility continuously reproduces racism through the linguistic oppression of the discourses, languages, and rhetorical practices of People of Color (POC). WC scholars of color like Romeo Garcia, Nancy Wilson, and Sherita Roundtree are addressing these matters from a variety of perspectives. However, this essay will attend particularly to black consultants’ experiences in and of the WC because the writing centers’ position as anti-institutional and the effect this display has on black clients and consultants is still, by and large, unknown. As such, this essay intends to shift the lens to the WC as a site of discourse and practices and explore how tutors use Black language in tutoring sessions, as well as the WC space, to both navigate and feel safer in a predominately white WC.

Though much remains unknown about black consultants’ experiences working and getting tutoring from the WC, what is known or, at least, reasoned by Muhrs, Niemann, Gonzalez, and Harris (2012) is “Establishing a critical mass of faculty of color in academic institutions is frequently cited and recommended as a strategy for minimizing feelings of alienation and cultivating a more welcoming climate” (p. 69). Similarly, Laden and Hagedorn (2000), noted by Muhrs et al. (2012), posit that the “the very presence of other faculty of color in the workplace helps the scholars to become part of the campus community” (p. 69); thereby, minimizing feelings of alienation. This lack of regard for the effect and, to some degree, the affect of spatial design on black consultants can lead to a more pervasive problem if continuously left under-interrogated by the WC field.

Black flight: black separatism in the writing center.

Working in one of the largest and most well-funded writing centers in the Midwest, I convinced myself that this space was different—different than the hostility hurled toward the educated Black[1] body and different than the educated black body that must navigate the hostile waters of Whiteness. Yet my hope in this safe writing center was rooted in a southern understanding of race, gender, and the various tensions between white women and black women. My WC director was a white southern lesbian from Alabama while I was the black lesbian born and raised in Washington, D.C.— a perfect balance between city and country. Our unity is rooted in more than southern geography, gender, sexuality, and class. Our unity is rooted in racial awareness of the tensions and ties between Whiteness and Blackness. It was this tension that caused me to begin researching (1) how the writing center crafts itself, (2) who it crafts itself for, and (3) how Black people, for whom this space is not ideally crafted, use Black language and its rhetorical practices to subvert and survive the predominantly White writing center.

In my WC, I was struck by the visible segregation of bodies when we held faculty meetings. Not only did some separate by department (music majors tended to sit with or by other music majors), but many separated by race. Often one could easily see a group of black and/or Latino students huddled together in one corner as white bodies spread themselves across the totality of the room. They were confined—blackness huddled together, surrounded by other black bodies for comfort and protection from an ominous spreading Whiteness. Navigating Whiteness is the Black body’s 400 year burden; however, there is cause for alarm when black bodies begin fleeing white spaces in droves because black people will endure astounding racism and racial oppression if that burden will serve them in meeting some greater goal, i.e., an advanced degree, a job promotion, etc. It was this leaving that caused me to go to the WC director with my concerns of Black flight from the WC because if a place presents itself as homey, comfortable, and anti-institutional but black people begin leaving such a space, that leaving may suggest that the racism operating within that specific space is so intolerable that no amount of monetary gain or policy change will cause black people to endure the systemic racism operating therein.

This Black flight may be due to working in a predominately white WC at a PWI that often creates a cold or alienating embodied experience. Black consultants suffer microaggressions that demonize by calling them aggressive, disciplinarians, while also questioning their intellect and ability to perform the intellectual or physical task tutoring/consulting requires. This experience, particularly for POC, often leads to a dissatisfaction with nearly all the aspects of their jobs, including the workspace (Muhs et. al., 2012; Turner and Meyers, 2000; H. Astin et. al., 1997, p. 69). With this theory in mind, I conducted a pilot study researching if, to what degree, and for what reasons might black consultants use Black language in a tutoring session and/or the WC space?

The sounds of blackness: The participants

The consultants in this study expressed their desire to have their voices heard. Since historically marginalized voices, as well as the voices of Women of Color (WOC), are often erased or lost, “[t]he potential loss of the unique aspects of ethnic and minority faculty members’ experiences is particularly serious with African American women because much of the research on this population has traditionally been subsumed under such topics as women, women and minorities, or people of color” (Muhs et al., 2012, p. 67). This focus group also included a gay African American male because the erasure or exclusion of the experiences of African American males in the WC is also particularly egregious. Lincoln (1995) noted researchers continuously strive to “fairly listen to and portray voices, particularly disenfranchised ones” (p. 283) so that these previously and, at times currently, silent voices can be heard. Delgado, qtd. by Tate (1997), agreed positing, “the stories of persons of color come from a different frame of reference, which therefore gives them a voice that is different from the dominant culture and deserves to be heard” (cited by Muhrs et al., 2012, p. 67).

Understanding how race and language function within the writing center was important to all the consultants. This understanding is important because consultants felt their use and the usefulness of Black language in the WC was and is largely ignored. If language is the way by which we articulate our world, then ignoring the usefulness of Black language in the WC is ignoring that very frame of reference that makes voices of color different from and, in fact, beneficial to the crafting of a comfortable, homey, although not anti-institutional (as nothing is anti-institutional)[2] space.

What follows is the result of several interviews with consultants over the course of three (3) weeks. Each session centered on, but often deviated from, how consultants use Black language in a Predominately White Writing Center. These consultants theorized Black language as a safe space, but also held onto the belief that black tutors must linguistically perform, and that the cost of this performance for some consultants can lead to misogynoir[3] when interacting with black women tutors.

Black language: a safe space.

In discussing language use in writing center spaces, Roma[4] noticed that language use in conversations between Black consultants’ changes when White consultants enter into the same space (in this case, the Writing Center)[5]. In the experience of Roma, she was aware that when she was with other Black consultants there was a difference in language, noting:

The difference in the conversations we were having when we weren’t consulting, were very different from the conversations we were having with clients when we were in consultations and even to the point of making that switch (in language). I also feel that it’s (language) discipline specific, because there’s not a time when I’m not using some like way high voiced English – weird language to communicate with other people. There’s not a space for that [Black language] in philosophy… I always had to pitch things to people in a way that wasn’t me.

Roma is aware that some academic disciplines require a voice (and a performance of that voice) that is not her own, noting that “there is not a space for that in philosophy.” There is also a distinct bias between the types of variation one can have in language. In the historic 1979 Martin Luther King Junior Elementary School et. al. v Ann Arbor School District, the state of Michigan found that “if a barrier exists because of the language used by children in this case, it exists not because the teachers and students cannot understand each other, but because in the process of attempting to teach the students Standard English the students are made somehow to feel inferior and are thereby turned off from the learning process” (Young and Rivera, 2013, “Be yourself somewhere else”).

The inability of Roma to speak in her own language (Black Language) within an academic discipline—philosophy—builds on the scholarship of Smitherman (1997; 2012); Young (2013); Perryman-Clark, Jackson, and Kirkland (2014) which asserts a hierarchy of language that exists within academic disciplines that require(s) those that speak a different dialect of English (or speak a language other than English) conform to one way of speaking and meaning making in order to be considered a scholar of a specific discipline, i.e., educator, scientist, rhetorician and, in the case of Roma, philosopher. Roma also discussed how perceptions of identity can change in a writing center when speaking to other Black consultants and clients that enter the writing center:

It’s interesting how one views themselves in the Writing Center when you’re a person of color and you’re having meaningful conversations, and then clients are there before their meeting and (it seems) like they’re like ‘Oh, are they going to be my consultant?’ And then I switch to like high language philosophy and they’re like ‘Oh!’ It’s a very strange negotiation [emphasis mine].

Roma speaks of the type of language negotiation she enacts within White spaces. She eludes that “meaningful conversations” occur when she uses Black Language and her switch to “high language philosophy” is both performance and performativity[6]. Roma performs the rule of trained, “educated tutor” using mannerisms and, more importantly, discourse and rhetorical patterns that reproduce presumed ideals of WC tutors—the ideals of white WC tutors.

Linguistic performance: tutoring in whiteface.

Roma is describing a disruption of linguistic space that occurs when clients enter the WC and notice her interactions and use of Black Language with other Black consultants. She implies that these clients are often surprised when she speaks in what she described as “high voiced English.” The issue is not that Roma’s language switched to this high voiced English, the issue is having to navigate and function in a space where she feels she must switch to Standard English to be seen as competent. This need to language switch[7] is due to White norms and standards. These standards of Whiteness[8] are standards Black people and other historically marginalized people must navigate on a daily basis.

These norms of Whiteness were and are still in place as a means to labor, to money, to religion, to law, etc. Whiteness studies scholars such as Bernardi and Green (2014), using models from structuralism to post-structuralism, have researched and explored the historical formation of philosophies and practices that were “‘invented’ by early American Anglo-Saxon elites as a way of controlling labor, faith, and privilege, and maintaining power and privilege for those that pass as white” (Introduction). For many people of color, negotiating Whiteness is both burdensome and exhausting. As Roma stated, language switching in the writing center is “a very strange negotiation.”

Roma’s inability to speak in her own language causes her to miss the “level of play”[9] that occurs within Black Language, and Roma also notes, “I also think among Black people the stuff we talk about is really serious, but it has to be playful or– ‘it’s too real.’” As with any conversation among people, they often drift from the serious to the mundane; however, when discussing issues of race, oppression, and similar issues, humor (one example of a level of play) is often used as a buffering tool. Some research suggests that laughing is a rhetorical device/tool used by Black women and I would argue Black men when discussing problems surrounding race, racism, and oppression.[10]

With respect to language, Evelyn discussed his experiences with an African American female who was from Detroit. He said that he knowingly uses Black Vernacular with her because “Detroit vernacular and Chicago [hometown of Evelyn] vernacular are very similar.” I asked him, because he consciously made the decision to speak in Black Language with this particular client (and a few others he mentioned), how and why he knew speaking in Black Language was the right rhetorical move to make. He mentioned that there are moments that happen within consultations that somehow let him know and give him the inherent feeling that it is acceptable to speak using Black Language with certain clients.

Evelyn gave an example of this moment when recalling a specific experience in a consultation with a Nigerian client in which the client was writing a scientific essay. Evelyn wanted her to explain a certain sentence she wrote. He asked, “What does this sentence mean?” to which the client replied, “I don’t even know.” This sentence was a type of linguistic clue for Evelyn. The first is the placement of the word “even” between the words “don’t” and “know.” In Standard English, the proper construction is “I don’t know.” The second clue was intonation, which Evelyn mentioned, “It was just the way she said it,” and he knew it was acceptable to speak using Black Language with the client. This intonation most likely sounded like “I on’t even kno.” Evelyn also said that being able to speak Black Language is “a comfort” when working:

We’re [Black people] just able to relate. We’re just able to talk in a space where we’re just ourselves. We’re just our complex selves. We don’t have to put on this extra, almost like a veil if you will, when you’re around certain (white) consultants. There’s just a familiarity when I’m with my own. I don’t know how else to say it. I feel free. I feel liberated. I feel that I’m not being judged at or looked at or looked through when I say something… it’s all visual. It’s all emotional. You can see it– that they’re judging everything you say.

Evelyn spoke of a type of mismatch or linguistic bondage that occurs when he must language switch, suggesting that the reasons he switches are not necessarily rooted in the belief that Standard English is superior to Black Language, but are rooted in historically racist assumptions about Black Language. These assumptions leave him feeling judged. Therefore, the feeling of being judged or “looked through” (about which Evelyn spoke) is a common feeling these consultants, and I would argue, many Black people have when among white people and having to negotiate Whiteness.

Who speaks for the Negro?: Language and gender

It is no secret that Black people are monitored, policed, controlled, and judged in American society, if not the entire West based on their race, language, actions,[11] and, at times, gender and perceived sexuality. Roma shared how gender and language intersect within the writing center noting that “gender dynamics are always going on,” giving an example of an experience she had with a white male client with whom she was working. In his essay, she encouraged him to use replace one word with another word and provided an example for him. He then clicked the synonym button on his computer to make sure the example word she had suggested was one that would suffice. “That was a moment of being like ok so the Word synonym button has more agency than the person talking. It’s a very tricky space.” This action by the client could be perceived as a racial and sexual microaggression—misogynoir, if you will. A racial microaggression in believing a computer program has more intellectual capacity than a black person, and a sexual microaggression because the client, as a white man, has an uninterrogated and possibly an unintentional gendered superiority complex to not only women, but also, and in particular, to black women.

Donovan, Galban, Grace, Bennett, and Felicié (2012) posit “racial microaggressions are a concept based on covert racism,” (p. 2) and are “brief, everyday exchanges that send denigrating messages to people of color because they belong to a racial minority group” (Sue et al., as cited in Donovan et. al, 2007, p. 2). This act by the client could be seen as a microaggression for two main reasons: (1) the client was a white male and there are inherent racial and gendered dynamics between white men and Black women due to the historical dehumanization of the black woman by the white patriarchy and its use of rape as a means of disciplining and controlling the black female body; (2) the client inherently believed that the computer, specifically the synonym button, had a superior knowledge and verbal lexicon to Roma.

When discussing Black Language use in the Writing Center, Nala, a woman of multiple cultural identities, who can call many countries home, faces several more hurdles. During our first focus group Nala did not contribute to the conversation about Black Language use in WC spaces. Because Nala is Somali and from another country (or rather many countries), I realized that maybe she did not use African or Black Language with her clients or other consultants, so I asked her “Is that why you don’t do the whole language thing? Or… let’s call it the language game?” She assured me that my attention to her differing cultural background was not a concern:

I still play the language game. I mean, the Blackness is global. The accent is different, but the language is the same, if that makes sense, because of Pop Culture. We watched the same movies, and the Black identities we got to identify with that were on television were American. So, for me, I have that same experience.

The idea that “Blackness is global” also shows how Blackness is constructed on a larger scale as many of the identities surrounding Blackness that circulate mainstream media originate from an American (Westernized) racial construct of Black American bodies. Nala’s experience, in some sense, underscores the particularity of the experience of American Black bodies under American racism. And while her Australian accent insulates her from some—not all—but some of the experiences of Black American consultants of racism and linguistic racism, her experiences of being considered more articulate than her black counterparts due to her white Australian accent is itself linguistic racism. Nala notes that because she has an Australian accent, people tend to think she is more refined, cultured, and learned. Additionally, she noticed the following when she was working with other Black consultants:

The language would change. If anything, if I get African clients and I meet someone from Nigeria or someone from Sudan, the conversation shifts and they’ll ask me, ‘do you speak Arabic or do I know these words?’ So there’s some identity play, but it’s more conversation than it is language in that regard. They’ll speak to me differently, but it’s the same.

Nala noted that this language (AAL) boils down to a “lack of understanding and a willingness not to learn–because why? You [white people] don’t have to learn [Black Language], so why?” This is the ultimate question that evolves from the predominant lack of understanding of and about Black Language by those who exist primarily outside of the African Diaspora; White Privilege affords those within the dominant culture the opportunity to ignore the cultures, the inherent values, and the complex language system of Black folk. Roma also feels that because our language is playful, people have to know “the language game” in order to enter the conversation:

It’s all rhythm. It’s like a musical instrument. If you can’t play the instrument, you’re not going to–so like the same way we are when we’re together, I don’t think white people are just going to come in [the conversation] and pick it [Black Language] up… It does seem performative in a way, but in a way that seems more authentic than the (other) stuff that we have to do.

Roma seems to be speaking about more than the intricacies of learning a language. Her statement suggests that Black Language has and creates its own rhythm and music. Equating Black Language and its rhetorical strategies to a musical instrument is not a new concept. Redmond (1977) notes the “songified pattern” inherent in Black Language (as cited in Smitherman, p. 3), which in no small part is related and integral to African society. Asante (1998) notes that African society is essentially a “society of harmonies, inasmuch as the coherence or compatibility of persons, things, and modalities is at the root of traditional African philosophy” (p. 76).

Language switching: Professionalism at a cost

When asking consultants why they language switch at all, Evelyn mentioned that his language choices were based on ideas of professionalism, noting that, “there is a certain type of professionalism between the client asking questions and here I am providing a service.” Evelyn mentions that “each client is different, so I have a guard up until they open up, then I become more–‘cause I feel like when I do it, the opposite way (it doesn’t work).” In his experience with the Nigerian client (previously mentioned) he was comfortable with switching into Black Language because they had a “cross realization of one another. I knew we were down for one another.” Nala also thought:

This is where I think Black Language transcends the U.S. I grew up in Australia. There is just this body language that is inherently Black regardless of where you’re from [in the African Diaspora]. It isn’t something white people do… for me that performance or that reciprocal– it’s just a natural– it’s like a natural genetic outcome potentially because you don’t learn it. You don’t learn to be Black, you are (Black). The language is inherently part of your being.

Rickford (1976), in “Cut Eye/Suck Teeth,” supports the position of Nala, noting that non-verbal language (or cues) are part of Black Language, and trace its roots to various cultures and countries in West Africa. Rickford (1976) argues that this non-verbal language “must have been invaluable in the creation and maintenance of a subtle code by means of which slaves could communicate with each other without fear of detection or punishment by whites” (p. 239).

During this conversation, I mentioned that the “silent talking within Black Language is inherently something that white people don’t do. Evelyn and I will look at each other and be like–” Roma nods, “yeah, and communicate– non-verbally.” Nala remembered the non-verbal communication that occurred among the consultants during one of the Writing Center orientations in a reaction to a consultant showing her favorite painting: Olympia. Olympia is a painting depicting a naked white woman with a black female slave in the background. This lack of audience awareness—that there are black people in the room—and empathy can easily be perceived as a racial microaggression since it visibilizes traumatic sets of events in our history: being enslaved by white people.

Because Black people were/are far outnumbered by White people in a predominately white WC, these consultants’ displeasure/discomfort and reaction to the culturally and racially insensitive, if not racist painting, had to be communicated nonverbally. As Nala explains, “that’s how we became friends [at the Writing Center orientation] through non-verbal communication. We were all looking at each other [when we saw that painting]. I mean, we were like what–what is happening?”

Implications and conclusion: Suggestions from a black lens

To echo the question of Nala, what, indeed, is happening? How is it that black bodies, enslaved and enshrined in a painting can be rendered invisible, at worst, or a part of the background, at best, and leave uninterrogated the very real effect of showing black enslavement to a room with black consultants? How is language being used in the Writing Center? Clearly, the consultants see value in using Black Language in writing center spaces. However, though they use and value this language, they are aware of the consequences of how this use can (and sometimes does) alter the perceptions of both consultants and clients. While some writing center pedagogy courses discuss African American students, who may use Black Language in their writing, this “instruction” often teaches incoming tutors how to recognize certain words (and some grammatical functions) of Black Language in order to transition the student into writing in the Language of Wider Communication (LWC). However, this type of instruction does not show how Black language can be useful in consultations and writing centers as a whole.

Understanding Black language use and how linguistic oppression functions in the writing center is a step toward a better understanding of Black language and aiding clients in making use of this language effectively in consultations. According to Young and Rivera (2013), although students are often told that their language variance is for the home, friends, or for private and not public discourse, the language of White middle-aged professional men speaking to President Barack Obama through Twitter about his healthcare policy is indicative of or suggests “the divide between vernacular and standard, formal and informal, is eroding, if it hasn’t already” (“Code-meshing: The new way to do English”). For writing center consultants and directors, understanding how Black language and linguistic oppression function within writing center spaces can better inform certain decisions surrounding the design of writing centers, additions (and other changes) to WC pedagogy, hiring practices, and WC theory and pedagogy courses, etc., can help re-envision how we consult, research, and manage writing center spaces.

The consultants, throughout this study, showed the importance of Black Language use in the writing center in terms of how they form solidarity through Black Language as it allows them to be their “normal complex selves,” or secretly discuss acts of microaggression in the predominately white space of the WC, or Language switch from Black Language to Standard English. While this switching is often seen as a beneficial attribute that consultants should have and use, sometimes these switches are made due to a perceived lack of linguistic understanding some clients and consultants have of Black Language which, in turn, can lead some Black consultants to linguistically “perform” in writing center consultations.

Although shifting the overall perspective on Black language—seeing it as a benefit and not a detriment to writing—is an important philosophical and pedagogical shift that should occur in writing centers, the other issues consultants mentioned (gender and power dynamics, cultural insensitivity, and the power of names and naming) must also be addressed within the writing center. If a writing center is supposed to be open and inclusive, race, language, and identity cannot be ignored. Nala believes that some kind of diversity training for consultants is needed. She also believes that, “clients should sign some kind of form” while they make an appointment in which they agree to respect all consultants—their language and differing cultural backgrounds—as well as those of the writing center staff. Implementing this important addition to Writing Center protocol is simple and, quite frankly, should have been included all along.

Antiracism training is not the type of training that can be implemented without proper research, design, and subsequent instruction. Before any diversity training begins, certain questions need to be answered, i.e., what type of antiracism training is needed and desired? Who is qualified to teach antiracism training? How will it be implemented? Will antiracism training exist as a separate course, or will it be housed within a Writing Center Theory and Pedagogy course?

While the implementation of appropriate anitracism training will take time, this is not an insurmountable goal to achieve. It is up to writing center directors, consultants, and clients to make changes to how people within writing center spaces view race, language, and identity. There can be no oasis within an academic setting just as there can be no oasis within larger society; however, to strive for an ideal writing center that is inclusive and respectful of the different bodies, cultures, genders, sexualities, and identities that enter writing center spaces can lead them to becoming less homogenized spaces— spaces which would provide many minorities a certain oasis of which they would not mind being a part.

Whether or not there is an oasis in the desert of the WC depends not on if it is a space that is free from racism, but if it becomes a space where (1) non-standard Englishes and other languages are spoken without fear of retribution and (2) these language variants and different languages are used to enhance the tutor toolbox as well as the quality of tutoring clients receive. However, until the WC finds ways to move its pedagogical aspirations in this direction, I stand firm in following (still) my father’s advice: no matter where you go, remember your face is black and to survive this White world, wrap yourself in all of your Blackness.

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Rafoth, B. (2015). Multilingual writers and writing centers. Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado.

Young, V., Barrett, E., Young-Rivera, Y., & Lovejoy, K. B. (2014). Other people’s english: Code-meshing, code-switching, and african american literacy. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

  1. Black and White are capitalized when discussing Black and White culture/cultural practices. Black and white are lowercased when discussing individual people who identify as black and white.
  2. While the home is a different kind of space than educational institutions, the home is still an institution as is the people (family) that reside in it.
  3.  Misogyny directed towards black women where race and gender both play roles in bias.
  4. Pseudonyms are used for consultant anonymity
  5. Note: In the consultants’ quotes presented in this writing, I use italics (beginning in the quote below and thereafter throughout) to provide emphasis to certain parts of their words I find especially notable.
  6. Performativity as “that reiterative power of discourse to produce the phenomena that it regulates and constrains,” (Butler, 1993), meaning emphasis is on the various mannerism vis-à-vis identity is passed, housed, or brought to life by discourse.
  7. I use the term language switch as opposed to codeswitch because I believe that all language, and specifically Black Language is a complex language system that cannot simply be decoded as if it were Morse Code. I argue that those who speak Black Language and Standard English are bilingual, and therefore, are not codeswitching from Black English to Standard English but language switching from Black Language to Standard English.
  8. In this project, I use Whiteness as a tool to critique writing center practices and policies as a way to show how the reproduction on Whitness in the WC is ruptured through the use of Black Bodies and Language in the Writing Center.
  9. Play and playful with respect to Black Language means how this language deftly, consistently, and playfully picks and remixes words and grammatical patterns, disrupting Standard/Standardized English while simultaneously finding ways to enrich it.
  10. See Morgan, M. (2009). “Just take Me As I Am”
  11. See Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, etc.

 

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