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Rachel Jeantel and Black American English

 
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Rumbera View Drop Down
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    Posted: Jul 26 2013 at 2:23pm
When it comes to Rachel Jeantel, who’s really on trial here?

When Rachel Jeantel stepped up to to testify at the trial for the shooting death of her childhood friend, Trayvon Martin, lawyers and later the American public had more to say about her language, mannerisms and appearance than her critical testimony. Ms. Jeantel is of Haitian American descent, and to our knowledge, speaks Haitian Creole, Spanish and African American English. In the days since her court appearance there has been such a strong reaction from the public with regard to THE WAY she speaks, we decided it was necessary to provide some links that are helpful in contextualizing her use of language. Make no mistake about it, we at Word. feel that the Rachel Jeantels of the world should not be silenced from speaking their truths, especially when confronted with misplaced ideologies and attitudes about the languages that they speak.

Check out these links for more information:

Rachel Jeantel’s Language in the Zimmerman Trial

“For the record, Jeantel, like many working class African Americans, shows asymmetric linguistic competence. She does understand standard English, as she emphasized in an exchange with defense attorney Don West. But she often speaks fluent African American Vernacular English (AAVE), or Ebonics, and the court stenographer, attorneys and jury members may have missed crucial elements in her testimony.”

Rachel Jeantel’s Language is English — It’s Just Not Your English

“Virtually anyone who was born and raised in the United States can speak perfect English without interference from any other language, no matter where their parents came from. The suggestion that Jeantel’s language is peppered with influence from Haitian Creole and Spanish implies that there is something off about her English. There’s nothing wrong with speaking imperfect English, but that doesn’t describe Rachel Jeantel, and to suggest otherwise misses — you might argue even reinforces — the real injustice at the heart of her cross-examination.”

Rachel Jeantel Explained, Linguistically

“Yet one problem Jeantel is not having is with English itself. Many are seeing her as speaking under some kind of influence from the Haitian Creole that is her mother’s tongue, but that language has played the same role in her life that Yiddish did in George Gershwin’s – her English is perfect. It’s just that it’s Black English, which has rules as complex as the mainstream English of William F. Buckley. They’re just different rules.”

Language on Trial: Rachel Jeantel (Interview with John Rickford)

“She [Jeantel] used a lot of the classic features of African-American English, which you can find spoken especially by working-class African-Americans almost every day. I don’t think most of these caused active problems of understanding in the courtroom, But I think they probably affected the jury’s and the public’s ability to respect and believe her testimony and relate to her. Relatability is very important.”

Dark-Skinned and Plus-Sized: The Real Rachel Jeantel Story

“The unique quality of her black vernacular speaking style became hypervisible against the backdrop of powerful white men fluently deploying corporate, proper English in ways that she could not do. The way they spoke to her was designed not only to discredit her, but to condescend to and humiliate her. She acknowledged this show of white male power by repeatedly punctuating her responses with a curt but loaded, ‘Yes, Sir.’”

When You Make Fun of Rachel Jeantel, You Make Fun of Us

“Judging by the lightening quick critiques of Ms. Jeantel’s quips and gestures, no one had any problems understanding her. However, what many African Americans in our social media communities secretly wanted was for Ms. Jeantel to code switch, remove the vernacular from her vocabulary directly rooted in this young woman’s experience to make her more appealing to Whites, and less ‘embarrassing’ to the guardians of acceptable Blackness.”

 
 
Thoughts ?????


Edited by Rumbera - Jul 26 2013 at 2:27pm
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Omni Harmony View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (8) Thanks(8)   Quote Omni Harmony Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jul 26 2013 at 2:57pm

“Judging by the lightening quick critiques of Ms. Jeantel’s quips and gestures, no one had any problems understanding her. However, what many African Americans in our social media communities secretly wanted was for Ms. Jeantel to code switch, remove the vernacular from her vocabulary directly rooted in this young woman’s experience to make her more appealing to Whites, and less ‘embarrassing’ to the guardians of acceptable Blackness.”

 


some simply don't know how to switch.  Rachel is not all black people, many of us do know how to speak, write, & spell properly.  Many do not.  It has nothing to do with what country her family is from.  We don't all retain the same information.  life goes on.  I am not worried about what what people think of my speech
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (21) Thanks(21)   Quote PurplePhase Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jul 26 2013 at 2:57pm
I 'bout fell off my chair when that L-Elders guy was on PiersM saying how unintelligent she was, and Piers said 'she speaks 3 languages Larry, how many languages do you speak?'

(now let me go read this)


Edited by PurpleHaze - Jul 26 2013 at 2:58pm
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Omni Harmony View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (11) Thanks(11)   Quote Omni Harmony Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jul 26 2013 at 3:00pm
I heard about Tom Joyner offering to pay for her tutor, GED classes, and full scholarship to any HBCU.  She took him up on his offer.  Good for her.  He did a wonderful thing.  More should help out academically if hey have the meansClap
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (6) Thanks(6)   Quote uppitynegroid Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jul 26 2013 at 3:01pm
Originally posted by Omni Harmony Omni Harmony wrote:

I heard about Tom Joyner offering to pay for her tutor, GED classes, and full scholarship to any HBCU.  She took him up on his offer.  Good for her.  He did a wonderful thing.  More should help out academically if hey have the meansClap
 
Instead of pointing their finger and laughing....
 
I thought that was pretty cool of him too.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (21) Thanks(21)   Quote afrokock Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jul 26 2013 at 4:26pm
americans critiquing someone else's english,

lets play spot the irony
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (12) Thanks(12)   Quote juniordetective Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jul 26 2013 at 4:27pm
African American English....we have a language now?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote carolina cutie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jul 26 2013 at 4:35pm
Originally posted by PurpleHaze PurpleHaze wrote:

I 'bout fell off my chair when that L-Elders guy was on PiersM saying how unintelligent she was, and Piers said 'she speaks 3 languages Larry, how many languages do you speak?'

(now let me go read this)
ClapLOL
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote SweetNovember* Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jul 26 2013 at 4:40pm
"...lightening quick?"
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (4) Thanks(4)   Quote Ladybird0724 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jul 26 2013 at 4:41pm
if you're interested, def. go read all the research on AAVE. some ppl dismiss it, but it has a recognizable syntax structure and complex verb usage. i think one of the biggest debates is whether AAVE is really a dialact as opposed to a somewhat separate language.

NPR has a blog called "code switch" that is pretty good, and actually has (mostly) intelligent comments (on the actual blog, not the FB comments)

there's also a book called "Shifting" that talks about it in regards to AA women, but this was published before "code switch" became the recognized word, so its referred to as "shifting" in the book.
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