The Problem. Black children in central urban ghettos do poorly on all subjects Reading: More than 2 years behind the national average Gap is cumulative- perform worse in fifth grade in comparison to first grade Poor performance correlated to SES
White interviewer, African American boy named Leon
WI: [Puts a toy fire engine on the table] Tell me everything you can about this
(12 seconds of silence)
WI: What would you say it looks like?
(8 seconds of silence)
Leon: A spaceship
(13 seconds of silence)
Leon: Like a je-et
(12 seconds of silence)
Leon: Like a plane
(20 seconds of silence)
WI: What color is it?
Leon: Orange (2 secs) An’ whi-ite (2 secs) An’ Green (6 secs silence)
WI: And what could you use it for?
(8 seconds silenced)
Leon: A je-et
(6 secs of silence)
WI: If you had 2 of them, what would you do with them?
(6 seconds silence)
Leon: Give one to some-body.
WI: Who do you think would like to have it?
(10 seconds silence)
WI: HHMMM Where do you think we could another one of these?
Leon: At the store
African American interviewer (CR), African American Boy named Leon [SAME SES]
CR: What if you saw somebody kickin’ somebody else on the ground, or was using a stick, what would you do if you saw that?
CR: It was supposed ot be a fair fight-
Leon: I don’ know
CR: You don’ know? Would you do anything?...huh? I can’t hear you.
CR: Did you ever see anyone get beat real bad?
CR: Well –uh-did you ever get into a fight with a guy?
CR: That was bigger than you?
CR: You never been in a fight?
CR: Nobody pick on you?
(This conversation is punctuated by the sound of potato chips)
CR: Is there anybody who says, “Your mama drink pee?”
Leon: [rapidly and breathlessly] Yee-ah!
Leon: And your father eat doo-doo for breakfas’!
Leon: And they say your father- your father eat doo-doo for dinner!
Gregory: When they sound on me, I say “C.B.M.”
CR: What that mean?
Gregory and Leon together: Congo Booger-Snatcher!
Gregory: And sometimes I’ll curse with “B.B.”
CR: What’s that?
Gregory: Oh that’s M.B.B. Black Boy (potato chips crunching)
Gregory: ‘Merican Black Boy
Gregory: Anyway. ‘Mericans the same as white people. Right?
Leon: And they talk about Allah
CR: Oh yeah?
CR: What do they say about Allah?
Leon: Allah- Allah is God….Allah is the son of God….
ANALYSIS: The social situation is the most powerful determinant of verbal behavior.
An adult must enter into the right social relation with a child if he/she wants to find out what a child can do.
Larry: Interviewee (lower class black 15-year-old male)
JL: …but just say there is a God, what color is he? White or black?
Larry: Well, if it is a God…I wouldn’ know what color, I couldn’ say- couldn’ nobody say what-
JL: But now, just suppose there was a God-
Larry: Unless’n they say…
JL: No, I was jus’ sayin’ jus’ suppose there is a God, would he be white or black?
Larry: He’d be white, man.
Larry: Why? I’ll tell you why. ‘Cause the average whitey out here got everything, you dig? And the nigger ain’t got shit, y’know? Y’unnerstan’? So-um-for- in order for that to happen, you know it ain’t no black God that’s doin’ that bullshit.
CS= Interviewee (Upper-middle class college educated black man)
CR= Do you know of anything someone can do, to have someone who has passed on visit him in a dream?
CS: Well, I even heard my parents say that there is such a thing as something in dreams, some things like that, and sometimes dreams do come true. I have personally never had a dream come true. I have never dreamt that somebody was dying and they actually died (Mhm), or that I was going to have 10 dollars the next day and somehow I got 10 dollars in my pocket. (Mhm) I don’t particularly believe in that, I don’t think it’s true. I do feel, though, that there is such a thing as-ah-witchcraft. I do feel that in certain cultures there is such a thing as witchcraft, or some sort of science of witchcraft; I don’t think it is just a matter of believing hard enough that there is such a thing as witchcraft. I do believe that there is such a thing that a person can put himself in a state of mind (Mhm), or that-er-something could be given them to intoxicate them in a certain- to a certain frame of mind- that-that could actually be considered witchcraft.
“When I need to say words that do more than simply mirror or address the dominant reality, I speak black vernacular. There, in that location, we make English do what we want it to do. We take the oppressor’s language and turn it against itself. We make our words a counter-hegemonic speech, liberating ourselves in language.” hooks