Why Can't I just be Myself

“ Hello my name is Arshelle. What is your name?”

“ uggh my name Shay” 

“ Oh nice to meet you.” I say politely 

“ Why you be talking like that” Shays asks

“ Like what?” I ask bewildered 

“ Like, you be talking like a white person” Shay says rudely

No one has every said that to me, I don’t believe that I speak any different from anyone else. I was around the age of ten when this incident happened at summer camp. My mom sent me there because she had work during the day even though I really didn’t want to go. When I meeting this girl Shay  was probably the worst day of my life. She kept telling me that I didn’t fit in and that my voice was to different. She said I didn’t talk like a black girl. The girl Shay seemed to be the “leader” of the group of black girls so they of course they agreed with her. I had never been ignored or made fun of before because the school I went to and the people I was around spoke the same way I did. I told my mom that they were not being civil and were calling me white girl, she said it was because of ignorance and the fact that they were unaware of people that spoke in a different way. I understood what she was saying sort of, but I did not understand that I spoke a different way. I was taught to use correct words and to say please and thank you. I was taught to say yes not yea. 

When I was at that age I did not know that there is a right and wrong way to speak. I just knew what I was taught. When growing and even now my parents have a mixture of friends but one thing they all have in common is that they are all educated. I guess growing up around people with a good education and a good job has rubbed off on me.

In the essay by James Baldwin called “ If Black English isn’t Language, Then Tell me What is” he talks about how black english is a language that blacks should speak. He also talks about how it is a part of the culture. He then talks about how when the slaves came over they didn’t know english so they learned from listening and they made their own words. He thinks that blacks should speak black english which in America is viewed as incorrect english. In the essay he says “ We, the blacks, are in trouble, certainly, but we are not doomed, and we are not inarticulate because we are not compelled to defend a morality that we know to a lie.” He is saying that the english language to blacks is a lie.  

I do not believe in any of his views. In the world that we live in now if you do not speak the correct way you are looked down on. The black community is looked down on in a way cause people say they do not speak well. That it is to “Ghetto”. In our society getting a job can be a very hard thing to do. Employers look for a well rounded person and someone who can speak well. People make assumptions  just by the way you speak. They can tell where you are from how you grew up and your education. Baldwin writes “ It goes without saying, then that language is also a political instrument, means, and proof of power... It reveals the private identity.... or communal identity.” I think he is trying to say that the way you speak determines what kind of power you have in society. The people who have the higher paying jobs speak what we Americans call proper english. 

In the short story “ How to Tame the Wild Tongue” by Gloria Anazaldua she says “ Chicanos and other people of color suffer economically for not acculturating” The definition of acculturating is to assimilate the cultural traits of another. This is saying that some cultures suffer because people do not understand the cultural traits of others. This can be related back to Baldwin’s essay society doesn’t understand why some blacks speak the way they do “ black english”. Society has set a standard of speaking and if someone does not speak in that way they are seen as different or wrong. In the short story “ How to Tame the Wild Tongue” the author is talking about how people don’t understand way she speaks the way she does. She talks about how people suffer because of that. The way you speak doesn’t always determine how smart you are. Every person is an image of their environment. 

The way I speak has really been a big role in me becoming the person that I am. I feel as though your voice can be used as a tool to get the things you want in life. I think there is a right and wrong way to speak but only because that is what I was taught. In other neighborhoods of the city people speak differently cause that is what they were taught. I do not believe that your speech should hold you back from becoming a “Model Citizen”. Grant it when you do speak standard english in the corporate world it looks better but because you speak “wrong” shouldn’t stop you from doing want career  you want.  I feel as though you should not be labeled as uneducated by the way that you speak. 

Growing up was harder for me cause when I went to middle school I ran into the same problem. Even though my middle was one of the best in the district there were still black students that did not understand why I spoke in the way I do. I got to the point where I would wake up in the morning and not want to go to school cause they would always torture me. I still did not understand why they made fun of the way people spoke.

We have been told what is the right way to speak and what the wrong way to speak is. In our society when black people do not speak in a way people think they should, it is a surprise. I guess I am the surprise, I don’t believe that I speak white because I don’t believe that you can speak white. I think there is a right way to speak english to pronounce words right and understand what you are talking about. But I don’t think that proper english belongs to just white people. Anyone can speak proper. I am comfortable with the way I am and I know that I should never change it.