The casual appropriation of AAVE | Opinion

The casual appropriation of AAVE | Opinion

The misuse of African American Vernacular English (AAVE) is far too common. Using AAVE as a non-Black person is a form of cultural appropriation, even if one is not aware the vocabulary they wield is part of Black culture. 

Cultural appropriation is when a dominant group inappropriately adopts elements of a marginalized culture or society. Misusing AAVE falls under this definition because AAVE is a part of Black culture warped by non-Black Americans.

AAVE is a dialect of American English created by Black Americans in the 1700s as a way to communicate among slaves. In the 1990s, Black culture and music were heavily popularized and influenced mainstream pop culture. Since then, Black culture has become a source of slang, style and musical influence, which has led to the culture being grossly appropriated.

A “blaccent” is the appropriation of the way a Black American naturally speaks with the use of AAVE attempted by a non-Black individual. Some examples of words and phrases people may not realize are AAVE are “they ate,” “bae,” “finna,” “boutta,” “cap,” “drip” and “extra.”

If a non-Black person uses AAVE or a blaccent, they are appropriating Black culture.

The use of AAVE on the internet by Black creators, like Maya Cherry and Kevin Langue, has influenced the slang of Generation Z and Generation Alpha. Before it was popularized, AAVE was seen as incorrect or informal English, but with the popularization of AAVE on TikTok, it is hard to escape its misuse in comment sections and conversation.

In 2021, the comedy show Saturday Night Live aired a sketch that was meant to poke fun at what they called Gen Z slang but was actually AAVE. The show received backlash from viewers on Twitter who were angered by the mislabeled dialect.

Hollywood celebrities are not strangers to misusing AAVE and blaccents. A few who have been called out for this are Billie Eilish, Awkwafina, Charlie D’Amelio and Olivia Rodrigo. Each of these celebrities have faced backlash due to their actions and after confronted, ceased to speak in blaccents and with AAVE.

A recent case of someone misusing a blaccent is Tray Soe, a young Thai-American who posted a video on TikTok at the end of last year talking about her soul food meal. She pronounced the word “cornbread” as “conebread,” upsetting many TikTok users.

The video has since been taken down as well as the video she made in response. In Soe’s response video, she claimed she speaks the way she does because she grew up in Georgia. TikTok users debunked her fake accent after finding her YouTube channel which showed she spoke differently in old videos.

Saying a blaccent is a result of where someone grew up is not unique to Soe. Actress and comedian Awkwafina also reasoned that, because she grew up in Queens, her surroundings influenced her speech rather than admitting she was using a blaccent and appropriating Black culture.

Growing up in Chicano culture, Chicano Vernacular English (CE) and Hispanic Vernacular English were very prevalent in my upbringing and affected the way I communicated with other people of color (POC). 

Although AAVE and CE are very similar, they are their own respective dialects and may be misconstrued by non-POC. AAVE influences CE, but the two tend to bleed together. More often than not, they are spoken in the same areas.

A reason the misuse of AAVE angers POC is because many have to change the way they speak to be socially accepted. This phenomenon is called code-switching, or when a POC changes the overall way they speak, including vocabulary and tone of voice, in uncomfortable or oppressive environments.

POC often start code-switching at a young age and continue into their adulthood as a means of being accepted by their peers and employers. 

Black Americans are often looked down upon for using AAVE while non-Black people are praised for their misuse of a dialect that is not theirs.

AAVE has sparked conversations around the way educators should navigate students’ use of AAVE in classrooms. The stigma that Black students who speak with AAVE are unintelligent and lazy is typically promoted by non-Black educators and students.

Within the LGBTQ+ community, words like “slay,” “queen” and “period” are of common use, but not everyone who uses these words understands they are derived from AAVE and Black members of the community. These words are often mislabeled as LGBTQ+ slang and are widely used by members of the community without thinking twice.

AAVE is a critical part of Black culture. It extends further than the creation of American ghettos and segregation and is a foundational part of Black American culture. The dialect is more than words to those who regularly use it and grew up in communities where the majority speaks it.

African Americans were stripped of their culture when they were unwillingly brought to North America. As a result, they strongly cling to the culture they have built for themselves through hardships like slavery, segregation and systemic racism. After everything they have been put through, they deserve to keep the dialect they have created without fear of it being appropriated.

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African American Vernacular English Episode 2 – Done // AAVE // Understanding Native Speech

African American Vernacular English Episode 2 – Done // AAVE // Understanding Native Speech