Saturday, September 27, 2014

My Comments About A "Black People Talking White" Video

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post showcases a video of a young African American woman holding forth about Black people labeling other Black people who "speak correctly" as "speaking White" and "acting White". This post also includes my transcripton of this video, my critique of her conclusions, and my critique of the woman's manner of speaking.

Hat tip to Scientistocrat, the diarist of a dailykos dairy where I first learned about this video:

I'm unsure of the name of the woman who speaks in the video (who I refer to as the videographer. However, another dailykos commenter referred to her by the last name "Dillard".

I appreciate the opportunity focus on this subject and thank the videographer for raising that topic via her video.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Black Lady Describes How Speaking Properly Shouldn't Be Viewed As "Talking White"

retrieved from Life Leak on September 27, 2014


“Alright, Here me out. I just have to say-I saw this on a post on facebook. Um, and I wanted to talk about it on video.

There’s no such thing as “talking White”. Or, you know, you’re talking- speaking White. Um, it’s actually called “speaking fluently”-speaking your language correctly. Um, I don’t know why we’ve gotten to a place where as a culture, um as a race, if you sound as though you have more than a fifth grade education it’s a bad thing. You know, um, there’s nothing wrong with that. In other cultures, if you speak your language correctly and fluently, it’s actually admired. “Wow! This person’s e- This woman’s educated.” “This man is educated.” “Where did you go to school”. Um, this person took the time and had the drive to get it right, to speak correctly. Um, I find it, our culture is one of the few that frowns upon…personal evolvement. So I just ask that you think about that. I know that it’s something that we don’t like to talk about. But, um, having proper diction doesn’t belong to the Caucasian race. I, that really gets under my skin. Having proper diction is what you’re supposed to do. And I have to say if you only speak one language- I can understand if you’re a bilingual, that’s different. Um, but if you only speak one language, even like your native tongue, and you don’t speak it correctly that’s not cool. If you don’t know how to enunciate your words, that’s not cool. It shouldn’t be frowned upon.

So let’s stop saying that, you know, this person talks White, acts White. Think about what you’re saying. Because, you know, in the same conversation, you say that the White man is bringing us down, but you don’t realize that you’re actually elevating this race, by saying that they are the only ones that are allowed to speak as though they are educated. And that’s not right.

Think about it."
*Transcription by Azizi Powell. New paragraphs were added as I
heard them given. Additions and corrections are welcome.
Before critiquing the woman's manner of speaking, I feel that it's important to note the sub-title for that video that appeared on that Live Leak website. That sub-title is "She be speakn da truf.”

I assume that the woman who made that video didn't add that sub-title and may not have approved of it if she had been asked to do so. I believe that that sub-title treats with derision African American English and those who speak that form of English, whether we speak it some of the time or all of the time, and whether we purposely speak or write forms of African American Vernacular English some of the time or all of the time.

I should note that I'm assuming from the woman's diction that she is African American although "Black people" is never defined by her or by that website in which the video is embedded. I'll add more about the videographer's diction and her attire in subsequent comments.

I should also note that I know nothing about the Live Leak website. Perhaps derision is what they do. It certainly seems to me that many of the comments posted to that discussion [I didn't read all of them] were racist and sexist -such as those that focused on the woman's low cut t-shirt. Perhaps those are the kinds of commenters who frequent that site. But I wonder if that Blackfaced minstrelized-like sub-title helped give permission to that website's commenters to "show their true colors". Also, it seems to me that the judgmental, "I'm better than they are" tone and words of that Black woman who spoke in that video also gave permission to the racists- if not the sexists- to "do their things".

To be clear, "She be speakn da truf” is an example of one form of African American Vernacular English. Some people who use that form of African American English do so much if not all of the time. However, many African Americans who might say (or write) "She be speakn da truf" do so consciously and purposely, code switching from what the videographer refers to as "correct English" - that I refer to as "Standard American English". In other words, we know how to and do speak and write standard American English, but we sometimes use that form or other forms of African American Vernacular English [AAVE] for various reasons, but particularly when we are "chillin" (relaxing) in informal settings.

In other pancocojams posts I've presented my theory that on certain YouTube comment threads some African Americans will purposely use "downhome", "old school" (meaning "well regarded old fashioned) religious words such as "Lawd have mercy!" and newer coined Black talk such as "Sang it sister!" and "He be killin it" as ways of signaling to others that they are Black, and as a way of celebrating that blackness. I call this conscious, purposeful use of what is considered to be "incorreect English" and "Blackisms" to be "Putting on the Black". Here's a link to one pancocojams post on this subject:

Click links found in that post and/or that "putting on the Black" tag and the African American English tag below for links to those pancocojams posts.

Much of my problems with this video is the woman's tone and her generalizations. I got the sense that this woman thought more highly of her ability to speak correct English than she actually does. More on that later. But I also think that this woman unfairly categorizes people who speak AAVE much or all of the time as unintelligent (although she didn't use that word-She said "uneducated"). I certainly believe that it is highly beneficial for people in nations where English is the official language (and elsewhere) to know how to "correctly" speak what mainstream societies call "Standard English". But I believe that that people may still be intelligent if they live in English speaking nations and they don't ever speak the way that upper class White people decided was and is correct.

{Confession: That last sentence is an edited version because what I wrote before was difficult for me to understand and probably wasn't what anyone would say was "correct English".)

At the end of her comments the woman said "So let’s stop saying that, you know, this person talks White, acts White."
I agree with that sentence, in part, because Black people shouldn't use "acting White" or "talking White" as a put down.

However, I dislike that comment because it generalizes White people.

[This was also an editing change because I typed too fast and thought that I had written something that wasn't there and what was there completely changed the meaning of what I wanted to say. My apologies to previous readers.]

All White people don't speak so-called correct English. And some Black people who have been told that we speak or write like White people -and I've been told that a number of times off the Internet and on the Internet- may also proficiently - or more than proficiently speak and/or write other languages. (Unfortunately, I can only speak and write English- Standard English and some forms of African American English.)

However, languages don't have any color-not even African American Vernacular English. People who aren't Black are able to speak AAVE quite well, at least potentially given knowlege of and experience with speakers of that language. Also, all White people don't talk the same and don't act the same. So what does "talking and acting White really mean?

After saying "So let’s stop saying that, you know, this person talks White, acts White" the videographer continued with these statements:
"Think about what you’re saying. Because, you know, in the same conversation, you say that the White man is bringing us down"...,
I think that part of this woman's problem (or part of my problem with her) is her generalizations - Note my comments above about when she says "White people".

Another example of her generalizations is her conclusion that every Black person who might believe that there is such a thing as "talking White" and "acting White" also believes that "the White man" is bringing us down." That phrase "the White man" sounds so 1960s to me. In the year 2014, you would think that she would say "institutional racism" (or "structural racism") is bringing us down.

Continuing her comments, that woman said "but you don’t realize that you’re actually elevating this race, by saying that they are the only ones that are allowed to speak as though they are educated. And that’s not right."
Putting aside the fact that White people speak other languages besides English, I think that apart from formal settings people sould be "allowed" to use other forms of standard English rather than that form that have been deemed to be "correct English" by "the powers that have been and largely still are". And even in formal settings, other forms of English including some forms of fAAVE are becoming more acceptable, not to mention that African American vernacular continues to be appropriated by non-Black people and is merged into Standard American English.

Returning to an earlier portion of that woman's video comments, she said "... but if you only speak one language, even like your native tongue, and you don’t speak it correctly that’s not cool. If you don’t know how to enunciate your words, that’s not cool. It shouldn’t be frowned upon."

"That's not cool" is an example of African American vernacular that has been appropriated by Standard American English. And like most Black slang that has been merged with Standard American English, it's no longer "cool" to say "cool". Other words long ago have taken "cool's" place to mean "up to date with the latest Black urban culture (such as "sick" or "def"- although African American young people -who are the prime drivers of Ameerican Slang- may have already put those words aside and moved on to other words. But given that woman's rather high handed, judgmental tone and her position that only correct English is the bomb ("the bomb" being another old way of saying that "correct English is the best thing rhat was ever created), isn't her use of any Black slang word more than a little incongruent?

And, did anyone else notice that although she surely didn't mean to say this, because of her sentence structures, the woman's next two sentences actually mean "It shouldn't be frowned upon if you don't know how to enuciate your words."

I got the sense that the woman in the video thinks more highly of her way of using what she (and many others) consider to be "correct English" than she should. Perhaps I should rephrase that to say that I don't think that that woman is as skilled a public speaker as she may think she is. I've already written that I have problems with her tone. I think she comes across as a snob, and that's definitely not the same as saying that someone talks or acts White. I've also already noted that some Black people (and some White people) have said that I talk (and write) White, although I've not gotten that I act White, at least I've not directly heard this. As to my critiquing of this woman's (I wish I knew her name!) video and her manner of enuciation, I base it on my years of being "one of the only one" or "the only one" (Black person) in high school classes, college classes, and later post-graduation from school, the only one on non-profit state and international child adoption boards and committees, and on county public health boards. (I was also the "only one" on an international online folk music blog). Those experiences gave me plenty of opportunities to learn much about what purports to the "correct usage of Standard American English".

That said, here are my problems with the ways that that videographer talked (given in no particular order) :
* She often used subsitutes for pauses ("you know", "um", "ah").

* She often pauses mid-thought [mid sentence] and added some other comment. That is sometimes shown in the transcript as words between two hyphens.

* She pronounced the word "a" as "ah". This is a very common way of pronouncing that word among African Americans and I believe many other Americans. However, since she is holding forth on the topic of speaking "correct English", you would think she would pronounce that word, and other words the way that people who hold that view think is correct.

* She didn't always pronounce the "t" at the end of words (such as the word "that").

* She didn't aways pronounce the "g" ending in words

* In the sentence “Having proper diction is what you’re supposed to do”, it seemed to m that the word “supposed” was pronouced “sposed”.

* In her sentence, "I have to say if you only speak one language- I can understand if you’re a bilingual, that’s different", "a bilingual" is not correct English.
I'll end there, although I could say more.

I'm curious what you think of this video and my comments. If anyone knows more about the videographer, please share that information. If she is interested in responding to my comment, I'm also interested in that exchange.

Also, I've included a comment below a quote from Levar Jones, the
unarmed man who was shot by a South Carolina highway patrolman when that (now former) patrolman stopped Jones for failing to wear his seat belt while driving.

Aside from the serious sociological and cultural aspects of that story, I believe that quote is a good example of a combination of Standard American English and African American Vernacular English.

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.


  1. Here's the comments from Levar Jones that were recorded by the (now former South Carolina Highway Patrol Officer's dashcamera during that incident that occurred on September 4, 2014:

    " Levar Jones:
    "What did I do?" ...
    "What did I do, sir?" ...
    "Why did you – why did you shoot me?" ...
    "I’m sorry." ...
    "Why did you pull me over? I was just pulled into the gas station." ...
    "Sir, I didn’t do nothing, my wallet is right there." ...
    "You didn’t need to … "

    The sentences " I was just pulled into the gas station." and "I didn't do nothing" can be considered examples of African American Vernacular English and the other portion of that quote as examples of Standard American English.


    for information about what happened to Levar Jones.

  2. The topic of the videographer's comments, and the way she pronounced certain words (such as "suppose" and "a") also suggests to me that she is African American. Her attire also suggests this to me.

    The woman who is speaking in this video is wearing a low cut t-shirt and a dark blue short scarf tied on her head. That kind of head scarf is sometimes associated with gang members, but I certainly don't think that that woman was or is a member of a gang.

    Yet I believe that it matters how a person dresses when she or he speaks to the public . Given the seriousness of her topic, I think that that casual outfit and the fact that the t-shirt was quite low cut were unfortunate choices. In particular, the choice of a low cut t-shirt clearly resulted in a number of sexist comments on that Live Leak website.

    I don't know that website. Those types of comments (as well as racists comments) may have been posted anyway, but that low cut t-shirt may have guaranteed such comments.