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Op-ed: Why It’s Problematic to Label AAVE as Stan Culture

Black culture is so heavily ingrained in pop culture that people unfamiliar with aspects of Black culture have reimagined Black culture to be the gateway to popularity. So many of the popular things we see on the daily like music, fashion and comedy are led by Black people, to the point where Black is sort of synonymous with being cool. It makes sense, considering how social media often likes to take aspects of Black culture in order to fit in or be seen as funny, attractive, or relatable. The most common aspect of Black culture that often gets minimized to being just stan culture is the usage of AAVE.

AAVE is associated with African Americans and is an official language spoken daily by 80-90% of African Americans. People who are ignorant often label AAVE as improper English or slang because it doesn’t follow the grammatical rules they’ve grown up with, but in reality, AAVE has its own grammatical rules and is very much a real form of English. Examples of AAVE are the words “period’, “sis” and “chile”. Words and phrases created by the Black drag community intersect with AAVE. For example, the words “shade” and “tea.”

Credit to: @PollPolitics

It’s interesting to see how social media has popularized AAVE among the non-Black community. Once something is deemed as trendy, people will cling to it in order to seem cool and hip. For many Black Americans, we grew up with AAVE, and we had to learn how to filter that part of us whenever we interacted with white America. Our proper English was seen as “ghetto”, and we were marked down and corrected for simply speaking English. People are erasing the history behind AAVE, and diminishing it to a made uptrend.

It bothers me to see corporate white businesses use AAVE in order to seem relatable, at the same time these companies have no Black representatives at the corporate level and probably tweet out a hashtag Black Lives Matter whenever another innocent life is taken in order to not get canceled and have their “woke” points taken away.

https://twitter.com/ungodlyjoon/status/1292308061873475586?s=12

 

Credit to: @/ @robsmithonline on Twitter

Another issue with the popularization of AAVE is that non-Black people’s misuse of a word can quickly become racist. When Noah Cyrus commented on Harry Styles cross-dressing in a photoshoot, Noah called all of his critics nappy, which is a word used to describe Black people’s hair, specifically 4c hair. During slavery, white slave owners described the hair of slaves as “nappy” after the word nap, or cotton balls attached to the cotton plant slaves were forced to pick. Since then, nappy has been reclaimed by the Black community, however, it is still used as an insult towards Black people, oftentimes dark skin Black people, and can have a negative connotation when used by non-Black people. The problem is, that many of Harry Styles’s critics were Black people who felt it was unfair that Harry was being credited as the pioneer of crossdressing and was being put on covers when artists like Jaden Smith and Young Thug were harassed over social media. Even though it was great of Noah to defend Harry against the hate he was receiving, her wording is a reminder that people will use AAVE just to use it, without caring for the grammatical rules and the meaning behind the words. It’s just another example of non-Black people looking at AAVE as a made-up language that they can alter and redefine whenever they choose.

It is inevitable that people will catch onto AAVE and fit it into their own dialogue. That’s how language works. What makes the usage of AAVE problematic is when people attempt to erase the culture and history behind AAVE and claim it as their own under a fictional term. When people have no care for the way they use the words, and when people fake blaccents in order to imitate Black people, it becomes very clear that AAVE is not taken seriously by non-Black people. Language is apart of culture, and helps us understand the people who use it. Erasing the people behind AAVE and claiming the culture as one that is made up, and can be credited to white America sounds very much like appropriation.

 

 

Featured Image: Photo by JESSICA TICOZZELLI from Pexels

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