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The Ebonic plague.

This issue of BLACK ENTERPRISE is our second annual special issue devoted to technology. Why? Not because it's popular or entertaining but because the mastery of technology, and the access to information and other resources that mastery brings, is critical to our ability to compete for educational, professional and entrepreneurial opportunities. The bottom line: Our ability to manage and manipulate technology can be the difference between economic empowerment -- or marginalization and obsolescence.

So why are we devoting more time, energy and attention to the debate over Ebonics than we are toward getting black children the exposure to computers and training they need to compete?

Loosely defined, Ebonics is the latest incarnation of what some academics call "black English" -- a language, rooted in African culture, that is a distinctively African American interpretation of traditional American English. To most people, the proposition that slang or "street" talk is a language on the order of Japanese, Spanish or French -- much less one spoken universally by all American of African descent -- is a bit far-fetched. First, Africa itself does not have a universal language -- unless you count English or French. It is a continent of diverse countries and cultures, each with its own variety of distinct languages and dialects. Second, as the population of black Americans becomes more culturally diverse -- including new generations of Ghanians, Nigerians, Haitians, Jamaicans, Dominicans, etc. -- the language traditions of African Americans are far from universal. Is it necessary, for instance, for educators to teach patois in order for Caribbean American children to learn standard English? It's not in Jamaica.

The esoteric subtleties of linguistics -- that is, whether there is or is not such a thing as Ebonics -- is beside the point. To make Ebonics and educational priority for African American children is irresponsible at best and planned obsolescence at worst. Fluency in Ebonics is not an advantage in college admissions and employment. An exhibition of that fluency in a job interview would be disastrous not only at the IBMs of corporate America but at black companies such as ours, as well.

We should not devote limited educational funds and resources -- which could be used to create greater access to computers in our schools, for example -- to Ebonics. Our children must be prepared to compete in a world that does not trade in black English. They must not be placed at further disadvantage in the competition for higher education and jobs by being required to learn Ebonics, while children of other ethnic backgrounds are mastering standard English, advanced mathematics and, yes, computers.

There are many things that must be done to improve the quality of education for African American children. Ebonics is not an option in our search for solutions.
COPYRIGHT 1997 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Publisher's Page
Author:Graves, Earl G.
Publication:Black Enterprise
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Mar 1, 1997
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