Most Black Americans communicate through some form of African American Vernacular English. African American Vernacular English is viewed as an informal type of communication that should often times be used in domestic and social settings. AAVE is heavily disapproved of in educational and professional settings due to its pronunciation, lexicon, and grammar in comparison to Standard English. Although variations of Standard English are often times used for effective communication, some individuals argue and believe that switching from forms of AAVE to Standard English can cause linguistic confusion and create racial tension among African Americans.
Common core education plays a key role in the major disapproval of AAVE. The dialect is rejected along with its absence in k-12 settings. Forms of AAVE are not incorporated in curriculums used to help children develop their oral, writing, and reading skills. Children are instructed to communicate with forms of Standard English. Children who use and speak AAVE without the ability to effectively use a form of Standard English usually do not meet literacy expectations set by states and school districts.
AAVE is often times condemned in professional settings. Most employers only deem variations of Standard English as acceptable speech in the workplace. Since employers believe that academic discourse in k-12 settings prepares children for the “real world,” a lot of their expectations correlate with common core education. Non-degree seeking employers expect employees to know how and be able to apply basic speaking and writing skills while on the clock. Being that standard versions of English are deemed as acceptable and formal, AAVE is often times viewed as unacceptable and informal.
Switching from forms of group English to standard variations of English is labeled as code-switching. Scholars such as Vershawn Ashanti Young and Erin McCrossan propose that code-switching creates linguistic confusion. Conducting action research in two 6th-grade classrooms, Ms. McCrossan found that code-switching does increase grammatical satisfactory as it relates to expectations set by the city and state but it also creates issues. According to a survey given after the study, more than half of the African American children felt as though they were giving up a part of themselves when they tried to speak or write in ways that people call “proper” or “correct.”
Code-switching prompts some African Americans to view each other as racially suspect. African Americans deemed as racially suspect due to their proper and acceptable speech are often times viewed as “acting white.” Generally speaking, the term or belief acting white is usually used by underperforming African Americans to censure academically successful Blacks. Some scholars propose that acting white is an insult used to discourage mainstream success for African Americans. African Americans should not be conditioned to think or believe that switching from forms of AAVE to Standard English is acting white or that acting white is a racial requirement for African Americans. Standard English should be used and viewed as an tool for effective communication and not a threat to one’s racial identity.
In accordance to its disapproval, it seems as though a lot people must study aspects of linguistics and culture at a collegiate level to develop some type of understanding and appreciation for AAVE. But are we people of the same struggle? Are African Americans the only group asked and expected to change their speech in educational and professional settings? Are Whites that reside in rural areas throughout the South expected to switch from their use of country grammar to various forms of modern English Grammar? Should everyone, or just African Americans shift from various forms of group English to standard varieties of English when necessary?