Saturday, August 9, 2008

African American English in the We-O

The Oakland Tribune reports: "'Go on the porch and you risk ducking a bullet,' said Kayla Mendoza, 45. 'They don't care about no kids out playing down here. They want to kill a boy; they gone find a way to do it.'"

And I'd be a liar if I sat here and said I've long been fascinated by the socioeconomic implications of newspaper quotes reporting African-American English* (AAE) as it's actually spoken... But the fact that this is a story about the worst neighborhood in the We-O, which is not the nicest part of town to begin with, to put it nicely, really leads me to wonder what the policies of the Oakland Tribune are when it comes to AAE. Do they just transcribe word for word? Is a copy editor on hand who speaks AAE to check the accuracy of the quotes?

And maybe the most pressing issue of all -- do they quote anyone like that who's *not* black and probably not so well off (again, judging only by the neighborhood and nothing more). I have to wonder if this isn't an attempt to mark West Oakland and its residents as 'other' somehow, like they may not be of concern to -- or even a part of -- the city the rest of us live in.


* - I call it African American English, following Lisa Green, et al. Others have other names for it -- Ebonics (considered pejorative), Black English, Black English Vernacular, Black Vernacular English, African-American Vernacular English... All the same damn thing among those who write about it (even though there are surely regional / dialectal differences among them; there are even within the state of Indiana, so I'm sure it scopes regionally and nationally as well).

No comments: