Black Englishrnby Nicholas Stixrn^^’ I ‘hose is the niggers that was f–kin’ with my sh-t.” “IrnA knew that nigger was one of the niggers I could relyrnon.” The first speaker was a twentysomething “homegirl” fromrnthe projects, the second a drunk in his late 30’s. Both were ridingrnon New York’s A train on different days and at differentrntimes. There was nothing extraordinary about their usage.rn”That’s ‘transcendent’ [black] English,” said the young NewrnYorker, correcting her white professor, a 40-year teaching veteran.rnFaced with an error-riddled paper, the professor had soughtrnto correct her English. But she denied his expertise. It’s a blackrnthing, vou wouldn’t understand.rnFrom the end of the Civil War through the 1950’s, accommodationistsrnsuch as Booker T. Washington, nationalists suchrnas Carter G. Woodson (in The Miseducation of the Negro, 1955)rnand W.E.B. Du Bois, and revolutionaries such as George S.rnSchuyler (whose pseudonymously printed, serialized 1950’srnnewspaper novels have recently been collected as Black Empire)rnall were of one mind on the need for black Americans to becomernnot just literate, but su/jerliterate. Black illiteracy was eitherrnthe result of racial oppression or of the passivity of the “inferior”rnblack masses. In any event, educational movements ledrnby the “talented tenth” would teach the Negro to outwit thernwhite man.rnApproximately 40 years ago, black nationalism underwent arnprofound change, embracing gangsterism. The “Black English”rn(“BE,” a/k/a “Ebonics”) campaign, which began aboutrnten ears later, is a curious amalgam of black supremacists andrnthe white “progressives” who patronize and fear them andrnwhom the Afrocentrists hold in contempt. One of the motiva-rnMcholas Stix has taught EngUsh in New York City for manyrnyears and is the editor of A Different Drummer.rntions of the new, gangster-style nationalist leaders was the desirernto erect a world mirroring that of the then-reeently departedrnJim Grow. In this world, no white adult would be allowed torn”disrespect” a black child by correcting him; white teachers whorndid so were “miseducating” black students. After all, accordingrnto Afroeentrism, blacks and whites are citizens of differentrnnations. Blacks are neither “Americans” nor “African-Americans,”rnbut Africans. The tag “African-American” was merelyrnan intermediate step along the path toward total separationrnfrom everything American.rnThe argot described today as “Black English” is characterizedrnby the constant use of street slang, obscenity, double negatives,rnthe dropping of prefixes, word endings, and many verbs, and arnlack of grammatical structure. The campaign to legitimate BErnhas been conducted largely through public agencies at publicrnexpense. With the help of wealthy, “progressive” white patrons,rnan upper-middle-class black insurgency imposed this idea onrnworking-class and poor black children. Once it was decidedrnthat to be truly “black” was to be illiterate, promiscuous, and violent,rnit was child’s play to theorize that a “black learning style”rnwas characterized bv “relational” and “nonlinear” thinking (illiteracyrnand innumeraey). Intellectual excellence was deridedrnfrom the gutter to the principal’s office as “acting white.” Millionsrnof black parents who insisted on their children speakingrnproper English and doing their homework suddenly foundrnthemselves up against a formidable opponent—the state.rnSome whites are willing to rationalize away all black educationalrnfailure. As a socialist political operative in New York confidedrnto me during the 1988 Tawana Brawley hoax, “You can’trnexpect blacks to participate as equals in public discourse.” Thisrnis typical of such humanitarian racism. In fact, many progressivesrnare so afraid of being called racists by blacks that they takernSEPTEMBER 1995/25rnrnrn