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Professor: Asking Black Students to Write Using Standard English is ‘Anti-Black Linguistic Racism’

Professor: Asking Black Students to Write Using Standard English is ‘Anti-Black Linguistic Racism’

Expecting black students to write standard English that their teachers understand is racist, according to a University of Michigan professor.

April Baker-Bell believes that “traditional approaches to language education do not account for the emotional harm or consequences these approaches have on Black students’ sense of self and identity,” according to an article in Equity in Teaching Academic Language.

Baker-Bell expounded on that during a November online workshop for faculty and graduate students hosted by Northern Illinois University, according to the The College Fix.

Baker-Bell said that because black language is “devalued in classrooms,” it “reflects how black lives are devalued in the world.”

“Similarly, the way we think about this notion of standard mainstream English is directly connected to the invisible way that White culture is often deemed normal, neutral, and superior in the world,” she said.

Baker-Bell is an associate professor of language, culture, and justice in education who authored a 2020 book titled “Linguistic Justice: Black Language, Literacy, Identity, and Pedagogy.” She contributed to a 2020 paper calling for an end to “White Mainstream English.”

Requiring black students to use standard English is “anti-black linguistic racism,” she says.

A workbook handout for her presentation at Northern Illinois defined that as “the linguistic violence, persecution, dehumanization, and marginalization that Black Language-speakers experience in schools and in everyday life.”

The workbook had exercises in which teachers and graduate students could “think through how [they] might be complicit in the reproduction of anti-Black racism and anti-Black linguistic racism through curricula, language instruction, pedagogies, practices, and language policies,” according to The College Fix.

The workbook also said that a linguistic justice course would allow those taking it to better be alert for “white linguistic hegemony and anti-Black linguistic racism.”

Baker-Bell has been touring the college circuit to expound on her views.

“(I’m) arguing for black linguistic justice,” she said in 2021, according to a news release from the University at Buffalo.

“I just want to take a moment to acknowledge my intentions upfront. I’m a protector of black language; I’m not a defender of white comfort,” she said.

“‘Standard English’ is a myth,” Baker-Bell said, adding: “The belief that there is a homogenous, standard, one-size-fits-all language is a myth that normalizes white ways of speaking English and is used to justify linguistic discrimination on the basis of race.

“Black language for me has always reflected black people’s ways of knowing, interpreting, surviving and being in the world. But despite there being decades of research on black language, its survival since enslavement and its linguistic imprint on the nation and globe, black people … keep having to remind (white) people that it is a legit language,” she said.

 

 

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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