Most people believe language and identity are two intertwined factors, and therefore, one's language should be proudly protected by all means possible. However, Rachel L. Jones, the author of "What's Wrong with Black English," has a different opinion especially on African Americans who insist on talking Black English. Since the author is not a linguistic or rhetoric, all the views expressed in the article are only based on observations and life experiences; she gives personal facts and successfully employs emotional appeals although her attempts weaken her arguments at some point when she expresses negative feelings towards African Americans English users. In the article, Jones sets the stage for her audience by first describing her background as a black American who can properly express herself using correct English. She further gives examples from her life on how she has been frustrated because she speaks white. Through the essay, I will explore Jones' opinions on people who hold on to talking like blacks and also discriminate against fellow blacks who use Standard English.
Jones, throughout her article, quotes different icons like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X to strengthen her appeal to ethos and the credibility of her argument. Also, to support her facts, she uses personal examples to form her own experiences, to show the development of her opinion on language. She attributes being bullied in school and being turned down multiple times while searching for an apartment to talking and sounding white (Jones). From the examples, the author brings out the issue of prejudice as she associates "good" English with whites who are articulate and well-versed; the fact that talking standard English and having good grades is equated to having white skin convinces Jones that this is some form of racism. However, this might not be entirely true, for instance, Jones was not turned down because she spoke black; since she believes she is articulate and she does not 'talk black' then being turned down would not be seen as linguistic prejudice.
Jones also uses strong logos appeal to add to her ethos by pointing out facts that support her belief in the importance of using proper English. According to Jones, everyone wants to be associated with something they can call theirs. And, for most African Americans, their way of communicating gives them some form of identity and somehow unite and distinguish them (Jones). Since they own it, they believe it should be protected, and a black individual who speaks fluent English would be going against the 'black' culture. To some people, language is more than just a key to identity; it is a political instrument that brings not only unity but also unites them. Jones, however, believes that black will not just achieve eloquence stature and grace in the society by speaking Black English; besides, using Standard English does not necessarily mean they are not committed to their blackness or their culture (Jones). Additionally, most of these end up missing opportunities since they cannot express themselves using proper English. In her articles, Jones provides details and facts build up on the logos appeal upon the reader that it is an important issue that needs to be discussed.
Jones also makes effective appeals to pathos at the beginning of her article. She uses emotionally-charged phrases that bring out a sympathetic image. She creates an image that shows the challenges of coming from a lower-middle class family that could not even afford a vacation in the Caribbean. Also, she tries to win her audiences' sympathy by stating that she often has to defend her 'humble' upbringing just because she was black; in other words, she felt discriminated by her black peers simply because she could speak proper English (Jones). The author also expresses a feeling of alienation by further explaining the challenges she had to go through in her school and while searching for an apartment, although she can communicate well using standard English she feels disappointed that neither the African Americans English speakers nor the non- African Americans English speakers are willing to accept her, preferably, she is treated as an outsider. The author primarily displays sadness to get some sympathy from her audience simply.
Jones' article generally points out most African Americans' belief that it is socially unacceptable for them to speak Standard English and sound 'white.' She proves this in various ways to a point where she feels like she has to defend her identity. As the author concludes, she directly addresses the issue by stating she should not be stripped of her identity as a black person just because she speaks excellent English. As she further discusses her language experiences, the connection between the perceived losses of status as an African American a linguistic prejudice become clearer throughout the article. She only mentions African Americans English users in her conclusion, and as she examines the effect of language on African Americans, she only emphasizes on how it would affect their futures.
Jones believes that the inability to use Standard English encourages linguistic prejudice and may have adverse effects on one's future career. By internalizing the challenges that she encounters, Jones does not only seem to develop a conflicted opinion on being black she also develops a negative view on African Americans English speakers. However, her intentions are not to attack African Americans English users; instead, she seems to offer guidance on how they can become better. Therefore, the author defends her blackness which at some point, has been called into question.
Jones, Rachel L. What's Wrong With Black English? New York, 1982.
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