(This video makes more sense if you are under the influence of hallucinogens when you watch it.)
Chris Hayes And Linguistics Expert Break Down Rachel Jeantel’s ‘Articulate’ Use Of Black English
Rachel Jeantel, the star prosecution witness in the George Zimmerman murder trial, has been the subject of barely-masked racial and intellectual contempt since she took the stand on Wednesday, and on Thursday night’s All In with Chris Hayes, host Chris Hayes and linguistics expert John McWhorter called out the ugly treatment she has received. McWhorter delved into Jeantel’s consistent and articulate usage of “Black English,” and he and Hayes called out the “willful” nature of defense attorney Don West‘s befuddlement at Rachel’s communication style.
Hayes pulled McWhorter into the discussion by noting that “what we are watching in the courtroom, over the last two days, are two people from very different cultures, from very different linguistic backgrounds, encountering each other while all of America watches. It’s been an incredible thing to watch.”
“She’s speaking Black English,” McWhorter explained. “Everything she says, where you can see the Twittersphere, or people I know thinking she’s making a grammatical mistake. If a Martian came down and the Martian happened to be in South-Central rather than in Grand Rapids, the Martian would have as hard a time figuring out how this dialect worked as any other. She said in the clip that ‘I had told you.’ Many people are thinking, ‘Why is she using that?’ That’s Black English. My cousins did that when I was little. It’s the narrative pluperfect. Linguists talk about it.”
“Needless to say,” McWhorter said, “I think, given how the Trayvon Martin case went, there would seem to be some cause for some preliminary racial grievance for the poor boy, to have had somebody chasing after him for a reason he didn’t know. We do know that’s how it started. Of course he might be refer to the person as a cracker because he’s a human being. And since this week, we have heard that there are times when we might, perhaps, excuse some white people from using the n-word… I think we can understand that cracker may have been an appropriate term at the time.”
I was raised in a home filled with crackers who spoke Redneck English. This resulted in my being emotionally abused and traumatized by a succession of public school teachers who insisted that I abandon my cultural heritage and learn to communicate in what they called “proper English.”
Believe it or not I was expected to read, write and speak in this unfamiliar dialect. I still have flashbacks when I hear the words “pronunciation”, “enunciation”, “diction” and worst of all, “grammar”.
I was even forced to practice manually writing on paper with an archaic script called “cursive”. It was called “penmanship” and the teachers refused to make special accomodation for my left-handedness so I had to do everything backwards. This was during the dark ages before the Americans With Disabilities Act was passed so I could not sue. If that happened today I would be rich.
Thankfully the children today don’t have to endure this demeaning cultural imperialism.
Nobody cares about my people. In some places we are stereotyped and discriminated against.
What you didn’t know is that the Black guys in the video are slaves owned by Blake Shelton that he used at his wedding.
It’s not stereotyping if all creepy-assed crackers really do look alike to you. 😉
You can tell them apart by the model of shotgun they own.
The thing about stereotyping is that it’s not bad in itself. It’s just the name for the human brain’s amazing capacity for pattern recognition: which is a handy survival skill.
The other amazing thing the brain does is switch in an instant from “generalized/pattern” info to “individual person/situation” info just as soon as it’s appropriate. Racists and bigots are merely the people who refuse to make that switch. They deliberately and stubbornly short-circuit it.
I speak Redneck English as well! I often type it too. When I’m being casual, I revel in my culture. It’s a fun culture. I can get my lowbrow groove on as well as anyone alive. 😀
I don’t use my Redneck English if I am on a witness stand. Or applying for a job. Or teaching a class. For those things, I learned the English that has been the hallmark of civilization for hundreds of years. I learned that English in podunk public schools, too – not some fancy prep academy.
It’s because I know, understand, and am fluent in the rules of advanced civilization’s language that I can have fun bending them when it’s appropriate. So kiss off with the “I’m rejecting my culture if I don’t remain only and utterly a hillbilly” bullshit.
And BTW, the last people I heard saying “That’s just how black people are, they can’t do any better, they can’t help it, and look, they are happier that way.” was the segregationists and the KKK.
If the hood fits, Chris Hayes, you pompous ass. If the white hood fits.
Did they make you read “literature” too? That’s what they called these stories and poems by old dead people that had no relevance to my life.
Yes. I was made to soak up all that culture foreign to me. So oppressed. I wish they had patted me on the head, complimented my terrible grammar as “authentic”, and made excuses for my sullen attitude.
Then I too could have faced a life of substandard wages, dead-end social contacts, and just drowned my sorrows in a culturally “real” trailer park somewhere, raising my 6 kids alone among the meth-addled whores that are my natural millieu. But alas, I was forced to imitate The Man’s methods of success. Poor oppressed me.
Hey, quick question: Why isn’t that Columbia professor who is regaling us with the beauty and authenticness of Jeantal’s culture, which he would not change one jot nor tittle of, no sirree, not being authentic himself?
You mean he’d rather be well-off and successful than authentic? Bastard.
It’s all about the Benjamins.
They made me study stuff by people who didn’t even write English correctly. Some guy named Shakespeare was the worst cuz he used really funny words and stuff.
One book had the N-word in it a bunch of times but they still made us read it even though we couldn’t say the word any other time.
Yeah, well, you notice these assholes like to sit up there on their high horse and opine ON ebonics. You never see them opine IN ebonics, now do you?
Fucking parasites. They are more responsible for the sad state of much of the black community than the few remaining actual racists in this country. Leeches. Living off the keeping the others down, so they can fucking opine some more.
One thing I WISH the schools would get back to teaching is grammar. Proper, old-fashioned grammar.
These vile progs really want to abolish the Constitution if it offends their sense of social justice. Since George Zimmerman has the right to a fair trial, the presumption of innocence and the right to face his accusers, Jeantel must be confronted, questioned and impeached when necessary by the defense. Even the prosecution wants to make sure the jury understands her testimony, and that’s why they ask what she said and clarify her idioms. They do it all the time. How many times have the medical people been stopped in this trial for explanations? Is it because they are being racially profiled or dumb? No, the lawyers want to make their testimony clear to the jury.
As for John McWhorter, he is the classic practitioner of “baffle them with bullshit,” to use an idiom. Jeantel is articulate if you use the definition “divided into syllables or words meaningfully arranged.” She is actually using words and syllables and sentences. However, under another definition of “expressing oneself readily, clearly, or effectively,” she falls short sometimes.
I took Latin and I happen to know what a narrative (or first person) pluperfect is. It’s one of those second-level kind of conjugations that most people get wrong once in a while. I’m sure most people don’t know the specific name for a freestanding apartment mailbox unit is, either. Jeantel went beyond that. She was combative, mumbling and perjured herself on the stand and them claimed ignorance when it suited her. McWhorter chose to Obamize the testimony by using less damning segments to make it look like a simple misunderstanding when she was giving testimony to the side that wants to put Zimmerman in jail.
The fact that this fraud’s name is McWhorter really *does* belong in the “you can’t make this shit up” file.
Talk about the shoe fitting.
Speaking of Redneck Culture, it’s not all bad. I wrote this for my livejournal in 2007, and all our redneck talk reminded me of it.
It’s an ode to my Granddaddy.
This story really deserves more attention. This was a major diplomatic faux pas.
I have a FB friend with family somewhere in Argentina who says that this is blaring front page news on every paper in Latin America, and people are FURIOUS about it.
It is very disturbing, and I can relate to the outrage.
I have to agree. I am ASHAMED of Hollande (not for the first time, and probably not for the last either) for caving on this. I mean really, what the hell would the US do if it got pushback? Invade Paris? I think not.
Rightfully so. 🙄
Um, hasn’t Russia said no to giving Snowden asylum and left him to wander around in the Moscow international terminal? Or did I miss something? France was ridiculous to cave in on this (damn cheese-eating surrender monkeys), but Putin doesn’t really have much room to talk here, AFAIK.
Putin is just enjoying all these opportunities to lecture the USA on freedom and democracy.
He doesn’t practice any of it himself, of course.
True, but it’s still funny.
I denounce myself for enjoying Putin’s schadenfraude.
Was that a fraudian slip you made there? : )
True fact: the English I grew up speaking in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is not even technically English with an “accent,” it’s a dialect (because there’s lots of Finnish and Finnish-isms mixed in, apparently) that outsiders often cannot completely understand. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yooper_dialect — I remember that at one point the marvelous food critic Michael Stern talked about not being able to understand people at a fairly rural cafe in the U.P., but can’t find the review on roadfood.com anymore)
Somehow I managed to make my way in the wider world. But, along with my other educated relatives (none of whom are even of Finnish heritage), I sound VERY different when on the phone/Skype with folks from home then I do at any other time. I THINK — but maybe not, because all my kids went through periods at fairly young ages (i.e., before they went to day care/nursery school/maternelle) where they had the same damn accent and nobody could figure out why they talked so funny. FTR, their English now is pretty standard.
The dialect I was raised in is technically Jayhawk but I can pass for a native Okie. I can turn it on and off. I normally speak Californian (not Surfer). I understand Southern, Texan and Minnesotan and I have the hardest time understanding Southie (Boston). I also speak Stoner.
Local folks hate being called “Redneck Hillbilly”, they prefer “Appalachian-American” 😉
The weirdest thing about California speech patterns that I noticed after moving to LA was being called “dude.” By another woman. At the large downtown law firm where we both worked.
She was from San Diego.
I speak Dude:
I was born and raised less than 20 miles from Boston, and I have a hard time with “Southie”. But I was surprised at the similarities it has with “Chicago”. Lots of misplaced “r’s” in both. They just misplace them in different places.
What a funny blog. I grew up in Cincinnati, hillbilly country. It took a long time to get get rid of that twang. What’s really interesting though is that there used to be a time, still is to some extent I guess, when you could tell exactly where a person was from by the way they talked.
And in reference to 1539’s comment above, we HAD to take Latin!…a dead language!
Regional dialects take time and isolation to develop. Nowadays we are far more mobile than our ancestors and we all watch the same movies and television. That tends to homogenize our language.
Now if we can just get the British to start speaking English correctly.
I have begun to notice British-isms like “cheap as chips” and “hey ho” creeping into my vocabulary, most likely courtesy of the landlords and one particularly wonderful Irish neighbor. How can you “go native” in a new country when you’re picking up the language of other foreigners?
Close very close.Almost next door. driguana, 🙂
meanwhile….those damn Tea Partiers…
I demand that Hayes broadcast in Black English only for the next year. That’ll teach his cracker ass…
I demand that Hayes tell the country just exactly what the sound of wet grass is. 🙂
He can do that, but you have to ask him delicately. If you piss him off, he’s just liable to…. ummmm….. drink a couple of Red Bulls and power vacuum his living room just to show you how butch he gets when he’s angry
I’m sure msnbc plans to do a special on Sarah Palin’s dialect, right? All about how she’s speaking correct and proper PNW English?
LOL, actually, even vile progs would have to admit Palin is articulate. She can nail it down with only two words like, “death panels.”
For some reason Palin’s accent has always screamed “Minnesota” to me.
During the Great Depression the government relocated a bunch of farm families from the Minnesota area to the Matanuska Valley.
That was my first thought when I saw this post. They bend over backwards with compassion and understanding to explain this cultural difference, but have spent years making Palin a laughingstock because she talks “different.”
Holy creepy ass cracker on a cracker, those people on MSNBC are fucking nuts. I was tortured with four years of Latin to try to teach me some of them proper language skills. I still have nightmares. Veni vidi vici my ass.
Imagine if you got all your news and views from MSNBC.
They’re currently discussing how Zimmerman had researched the stand your ground law, implying that he deliberately went out to hunt somebody down so he could test his research.
Last week they were debating which is worse, the N word or “cracker?” Gee guys, I don’t know, but I’d guess it might be the one you keep bleeping out?
Thankfully that is only a couple of thousand people based upon their Nielsen’s. If it wasn’t for NBC corporate carrying their freight they would have gone the way of the Dodo. The outrage addicts are all the viewers they have left.
I am from Maryland . If I venture north to New York , I am speaking with a southern accent and am thereby a stupid southerner . If I go south , I am a damned Yankee . I can’t win , unless I stay here in the Land Of Pleasant Living and let all the tourists visit , bringing their lovely accents with them .
My future daughter in law speaks Glasgow Scottish English . When I need a translator , luckily for me , my son can translate .
when I came to California, people told me I had a philly accent. I explained ” I never had an accent until I came here”. I did make them stop and think
Scottish English (and the English of anybody who lives in the northern part of that country) is the HARDEST to understand! There’s a reason that Scottish movies have subtitles for American audiences. As some of you know, we are STILL living in a vacation rental (possibly not for much longer!) over here, and we have a rotating cast of neighbors from the U.K. in and out all summer.
So far the Irish neighbors (every last one of ’em) have been the best and most have become something like family; the only thing we can figure out about the Scottish folks is that they seem to like to swim in the pool when it’s so cold you practically have to break the ice. It’s really hard to have a conversation!
What I love is all the non-locals, and DC is filled with non-locals, who tell me I pronounce Washington funny because I put an “r” in it. I tell them, “I’m the local; you’re the one who is pronouncing it wrong!”
My family uses Washington-with-an-R. I hated it as an arrogant teen. I would chide my bother & mother into telling me where the “R” was in Washington. My brother fought back by starting to pronounce garbage and “gar-BAUG” in a French iteration, with the emphasis on the second syllable and a soft G. I still don’t say Warshington, and he still says GarBAUG. We’re both in our 40s. LOL
My grandma made us warsh our hands before we ate.
when I was working I used to call train crews from all parts of the country. It was an education. different cultures from different parts of the country.
I learned to speak “southie”, new yawk, philly, southern Virgina and New Orleans, red neck, surfer not too much chicago.
I really wish more Americans would travel around this great country and see all the different cultures that make this country awesome. It every place I traveled I met good people. They may talk a little different but most had the same values. work hard, make life a little better for their families and enjoy life
My completely non-PC take on RJ’s testimony is this: She deliberately exaggerated the dialect, in addition to speaking softly, to obfuscate her testimony. If you were watching the trial, the difference in her voice level and speech pattern during the deposition tape is obvious. I love dialect and I particularly love Black English. I went to a Black high school and I have no trouble understanding Black English when it is spoken sans mushmouth and at a normal vocal level. It has been my experience, that mushmouth is used (by many races) when they don’t want you to understand what they are saying. It is passive/aggressive at best. JMO, OMO, MOO, and all that. So BS to all the idjits jumping on the defend-RJ’s-belligerent-testimony bandwagon.
That was my take, too. She was deliberately making it as difficult as possible as a way to express her displeasure and outrage that she had to be there at all, and because she did not want to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
My husband runs into this in the hospital, with some of his Mexican patients. (And I mean Mexican nationals who come here to our hospitals, not Mexican Americans.) When they want to be an ass or be difficult, they pretend they either don’t understand or don’t speak anything but broken English. Often when he just heard the entire family from the hall all conversing in perfect English.