It is a well-documented fact that by the age of 5 monolingual White children will have heard 30 million fewer words in languages other than English than bilingual children of color. In addition, they will have had a complete lack of exposure to the richness of non-standardized varieties of English that characterize the homes of many children of color. This language gap increases the longer these children are in school. The question is what causes this language gap and what can be done to address it?
The major cause of this language gap is the failure of monolingual White communities to successfully assimilate into the multilingual and multidialectal mainstream. The continued existence of White ethnic enclaves persists despite concerted efforts to integrate White communities into the multiracial mainstream since the 1960s. In these linguistically isolated enclaves it is possible to go for days without interacting with anybody who does not speak Standardized American English providing little incentive for their inhabitants to adapt to the multilingual and multidialectal nature of US society.
This linguistic isolation has a detrimental effect on the cognitive development of monolingual White children. This is because linguistically isolated households lack the rich translanguaging practices that are found in bilingual households and the elaborate style-shifting that occurs in bidialectal households. This leaves monolingual White children without a strong metalinguistic basis for language learning. As a result, many of these monolingual White children lack the school-readiness skills needed for foreign language learning and graduate from school having mastered nothing but Standardized American English leaving them ill-equipped to engage in intercultural communication.
I have been schooled in elite, predominantly white settings for most of my life. As of late, I can’t shake the feeling that much of this process, this everyday violence operating under the guise of access or achievement or inclusion, was geared toward making me into someone who is very, very good at making white folks feel safe. I have known for years that this labor would not save me from death at the hands of police officer or vigilante, but only as of late has it occurred to me that this very desire to be a non-threatening, respectable subject is in many ways a refusal of life itself. Which pushes me to think, now more than ever, about the ways I might teach students, and maybe even children one day, how to navigate an anti-black world while straining against even its most basic terms, how to help them survive without the mask.
hooks is the person who revealed the secret of academia to me, which is that when you use your own language, when love and passion are part of your work, you are able to reach more people. And isn’t that why we are in this business, to reach people? To be part of their process of growing and changing? Isn’t that what we look for in every job, in every conversation?
When conservatives talk about their idea of a woman who needs access to contraception and/or abortion services, she is always poor, uneducated, promiscuous, and irresponsible. By painting this image, they make it easy for women to distance themselves from each other. Not only is the debate around restrictions on birth control and abortion gendered, it also becomes classed. We stop caring that these restrictions impact all women on some level because we tell ourselves, “Well, I am not like ‘that’, so I do not care if that woman has access to the services she needs.” Furthermore, this picture of the woman who is “poor, uneducated, promiscuous, and irresponsible” is also how conservatives have historically stereotyped Black Women. Thus, this image is gendered, class-specific, and racialized. And I would argue that so are their restrictions on reproductive health services.
Conservatives’ obsession with limiting access to birth control and abortion is one that affects all women. But their reasoning also lets me know they are, indeed, targeting Black Women. It is time that Black Women become more vocal about our right to make decisions about our bodies, sexualities, and reproductive choices without interference or regulation from others. In the same way that we are speaking up about their right to define ourselves and narrate our own lives, we must also be vocal about reproductive justice.
Let me be clear: Unarmed college hopefuls don’t deserve to be shot. Unarmed kids heading to work or trade school don’t deserve to be shot. Unarmed kids floundering aimlessly through life don’t deserve to be shot. Unarmed kids who have been in trouble—even those who have been nothing but trouble—don’t deserve to be shot.
The act of pinning the tragedy of a dead black teen to his potential future success, to his respectability, to his “good”-ness, is done with all the best intentions. But if you read between the lines, aren’t we really saying that had he not been on his way to college, there’d be less to mourn?
If you want to know why millennials are far more economically liberal than other generations, consider the news that colleges have started opening on-campus food banks to keep their students from going hungry.
Black studies was never meant to be a means of merely learning about our past. It was a pedagogical innovation, not meant to be restricted to the study of blackness alone. It was to be a new approach to scholarship and teaching which would prepare black students to function in the hard times ahead for us while clearing the way for the ultimate humanization of a decadent American society. Black studies will be revolutionary or it will be useless if not detrimental.
I can’t really be suggesting that heterosexuality is somehow taught, can I? That it is somehow part of the curriculum?
I would argue that it is very much part of what schools aim to teach. Why else would educational institutions so enthusiastically promote social norms which exclude queers? My own teaching colleagues have criticised my decision to tell my students my partner’s name, Emily, as it’s too much information about my sexuality; straight colleagues wear wedding rings or take the title ‘Mrs.’ Facebook memes celebrate ‘mums and dads’ kissing in front of the kids to show them what loving relationships are like; television programmes depicting same-sex kisses are firmly placed in later timeslots to ‘protect children’. Kissing my partner in the supermarket attracts disgusted glances from people who steer their children quickly away; a family wedding with children present can include more than one gently ribald reference to the wedding night or the honeymoon. In short, heterosexuality is relentlessly advertised by those who practice it; queer sexualities are always taboo in ‘family friendly’ spaces.