the initiative in labeling any whites holding blacks to standardsrnas “racists.”rnThe cultural split among blacks is between those who seerngutter language as “liberating” and those who privately call itrn”slave talk.” However, public debate is limited by the commandment,rn”Thou shalt not criticize a brother or sister in frontrnof them.” And the black nationalists who so delight in giving itrnto the “white devils” will call any black breaking ranks anrn”Oreo,” “Rent-a-Tom,” “allegedly Black person,” “Negro,” etc.rnThat is, when they are not letting their fists do their talking.rnFortunately, I have yet to run into a black student who correctsrnmy attempts at improving his work. (I had a close call withrnone hostile student, but before he could erupt, the police suddenlyrnshowed up and arrested him during a class. I never sawrnhim again.) I have had black students go beyond the countlessrncopy editing and proofreading corrections I impose on all students,rnto fix phrasing I had left untouched. One young womanrnhad used some street slang—”their no good, sorry ass selves”—rnwhich I found charming. By letting the slang pass, I hadrnpatronized her. It had no business in a philosophy paper. Allrnthe same, she took it upon herself to delete the slang in a laterrnversion.rnThe theory that American blacks speak a language of theirrnown gained public notice during the early 1970’s. In Black Englishrn(1971), J.L. Dillard expounded the first systematic theory,rnwhile Geneva Smithcrman, John Langston Gwaltney, andrnMolefi Kete Asante, among others, have since discoursed onrnthe subject. In general, they oppose the older notion thatrnAmerican black English presents dialects of American English.rnBE’s central thesis, that blacks and whites speak different languages,rnequivocates on the distinction between “language” andrn”dialect.” By the same logic, Bavarians could argue that they dornnot speak a German dialect, but rather a separate language.rnSuch a logic of exceptionalism could then be extended to everyrndialect of every language, just as many ethnic groups in thernworld today demand recognition as separate “nations.”rnThe examples of BE offered by Dillard (and to a lesser extentrnby Gwaltney) have the flavor of uneducated, poor, rural blacks,rnin a style more reminiscent of black Americans in 1871 than inrn1971. Such pastoral romanticism must ignore the kinship betweenrnthe English of poor, illiterate Southern blacks and that ofrntheir white counterparts. Smithcrman’s examples, on the otherrnhand, are more contemporary and urban. Her compendiumrnof idiomatic phrases, not all of which are clearly black in origin,rnare colorful when used by accomplished speakers. However,rntoday’s average black is no more accomplished at speaking thanrnthe average white.rnA mixture of moralism and pseudoscienee pervades worksrnsuch as Afrocentricity and Kemet, Afrocentricity & Knowledge byrnMolefi Kete Asante (formeriy Arthur Smith)—the “godfather”rnof Afrocentrism and chairman of Temple University’s BlackrnStudies Department—and Drylongso by John Langston Gwaltney.rnAlthough Gwaltney is a professor of anthropology, Drylongsornis less an examination of than a piece of instant folklore.rnThe blind Gwaltney apparently fancies himself a “seer” in thernAfrican tradition of the “griot”; thus it would be disrespectfulrnto question his authority. I le gives the impression that he eonductsrnhis research by wandering from African village to villagernas a native wise man, but the truth is that his interviews wererncarried out in America! All he will tell us is that his researchrnoccurred during the cariy I970’s. Gwaltney changes the namesrnof his informants, whom he tells us were all relatives andrnlifelong friends, and refuses to divulge the locations of hisrninterviews.rnGwaltney’s book is full of normative judgments as to whatrnconstitutes a “core good black person,” along with a glossary ofrnBE terms. Written exclusively with white patronage, the workrnwas obviously intended for a white audience. Otherwise, whyrninclude a glossary of terms every black would know? Exceptrnthat many would not. For instance, the term “ofay” is definedrnas meaning “white.” This is true, but only in the same sense inrnwhich “nigger” means “black.” Before it fell into disusernapproximately 30 years ago, “ofay” was the most derogatoryrnterm a black could use in speaking of a white.rnOther glossary entries arc mutilated, given an exotic, patoislikernsound like that of Cajun or Haitian Grcole. For example,rnthe flat consonant “lingua-alveolar” sounds (e.g., “t” and “d”rnsounds), made by the conjunction of tongue and gum ridgernand associated with English and German, are changed to “bilabial”rn(two lip) sounds with a more French feel. Thus, thernstreet term “diddlcy squat,” or “diddley” for short, becomes thernexotic-sounding “doodlee-squa.” “Diddley squat” meansrn”anything,” “nothing,” or “sh-t,” as in “‘They don’t payrndiddley.”rnThe purpose of such mystification is to invent an exoticismrnthat black American culture supposedly lacks. In a revealingrnessay 20 years ago—”If Black English isn’t a Language,rnWhat is?”—the late James Baldwin dropped all pretenses tornscholarship or logic, arguing that American blacks’ history ofrnenslavement and discrimination entitled them to see blackrnF’.nglish as a real language, linguistic criteria be damned.rnAll BE theories rest on the assumption that General AmericanrnSpeech (GAS) is “what white folks speak.” Anyone whornhas ever tried to teach English to white students of any agernknows how wrong that premise is. GAS is a normative ideal;rnthe average white speaks a shameful parody of good English. Ifrnthings were otherwise, predominantly white colleges could shutrndown their “white English” writing programs.rnIf we take the explicit claims of BE advocates seriously, nornwhite professor may teach black students. Pbr he cannot possiblyrnunderstand them, and they cannot possibly understandrnhim. Yet, most black students obviously do understand theirrnwhite instructors. I lere the theory switches from the empiricalrnto the normative. The principle of BE is that black studentsrnshould not understand their white professors.rnPresuming, as the theory suggests, that only blacks may teachrnblack students, what would a BE writing class look like? Wouldrnthe black professor instruct students on the “proper” use of therndouble negative, the “right” way to misspell, and how “appropriately”rnto drop prefixes, word endings, and many verbs? BE’srnadvocates claim to be positing an empirical theory of howrnblacks do in fact speak. Treating it rather as a theory of howrnblacks should speak demystifies its empirical claims.rnBE arose as a strategy within urban welfare polities, when inrnthe late I960’s radical black student leaders and their whiternMarxist supporters demanded an immediate elimination of allrnbarriers to the admission of unqualified black students not onlyrnto community colleges, but to previously selective (in thernease of Gity Gollege of New York, highly selective) four-yearrnpublic schools. They demanded Black Studies programs withrnunlettered but radical directors and instructors (no whites needrnapply) to be chosen by “the community”; the granting of fullrnfaculty rank to unqualified staff members; and the introdue-rn26/CHRONICLESrnrnrn