“I DO not know what white Americans would sound like if there had never been any black people in the United States, but they would not sound the way they sound.”
This excerpt struck a chord with me. Is our language, or the way we use our language, based in the use of the language by other groups? Something I found interesting while researching this topic was how the English language (and it’s pronunciation) was spoken by the people of Great Britain compared to today. The Patriots and the Redcoats spoke with accents that were much closer to the contemporary American accent than to the Queen’s English. But, upper class Brits wanted to distinguish themselves from the “low class” colonists, so, non-rhotic speech took off in southern England. It was a signifier of class and status. Clearly, there was a time where the British listened to how we all spoke, and changed their accent to show a clear distinction between the two groups.
In the case of the article, the reason behind “Black English” is slightly different compared to why the British “changed languages.” Black English was “created” out of necessity and allowed blacks to communicate without white slave-owners understanding them.