Pubdate: Fri, 10 Sep 2010
Source: Augusta Chronicle, The (GA)
Copyright: 2010 The Augusta Chronicle
Author: Jennifer Harris


A recent article regarding the Drug Enforcement Administration 
requesting interpreters of "ebonics" caused a stir in the community. 
If the focus shifted to the fundamental flaws of the language 
argument, and to the legitimacy of successful communication across 
cultures, the issue would be less inflammatory and more unifying.

The need for assistance to accurately understand what has been 
described as "a combination of English vocabulary and African 
language structure" and labeled as "ebonics" is valid on its face for 
the purposes that the DEA proposes. A real need exists to correctly 
understand conversations that do not follow the standard rules of English.

The real issue is the methodology and presentation the DEA used in 
soliciting potential employees, and perhaps the job description and 
job title. If the DEA states that it needs ebonics translators, the 
inference is drawn that ebonics is a language.

If taken further, it can be assumed that there are people who are 
officially, competently and certifiably trained to translate or 
interpret ebonics, which in is nothing more than a buzzword to 
describe a social phenomenon that has proven to be politically, 
emotionally and racially controversial. I don't think it is racist to 
voice the need for assistance in understanding a verbal manipulation 
of the English language.

Some people do speak a manipulated version of English, and if the 
majority of those people happen to be African-American, it is still 
not racist unless they are being somehow penalized for speaking in 
such a manner. It is simply a cultural diversity issue that needs to 
be addressed to establish unity and some kind of identification 
across cultural barriers -- but that does not equate to racism or 

Because I do care a great deal about preserving the integrity of the 
English language, both spoken and written, my concern is that 
educated and influential U.S. citizens are failing to recognize the 
difference between cultural issues and language issues.

Jennifer Harris

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MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart