LIVE my fullest life, LAUGH through obstacles to my goals, and LOVE everyone and everything. LOVE and respect everyone the same way you do to yourself! LIVE to LOVE and LAUGH.
Slang and colloquial speech have rarely been so creative. It is as if the common man (or his anonymous spokesman) would in his speech assert his humanity against the powers that be, as if the rejection and the revolt subdued in the political sphere would burst out in a vocabulary that calls things by their names: ‘head-shrinker’ and ‘egghead,’ ‘boob tube,’ ‘think tank’ and ‘beat it,’ “dig it’ and “gone man gone,’” Herbert Marcuse wrote in The One-Dimensional Man.
And it may turn out that the great restive underground language rising from the American slums and fringe communities is the real American poetry and prose, that can tell you the way things are happening now. If this is not the case, then it is mighty strange that a whole new generation exploits this language, in what White racist critics call “folk rock lyrics.”
They all—all of them whitefolks ruling the country—they all talk that talk, that “standard (white) English.” It is the language of the powerful. Language is political. That’s why you and me, my Brother and my Sister, that’s why we sposed to choke our natural self into the weird, lying, barbarous, unreal, white speech and writing habits that the schools lay down like holy law. . . .
See, the issue of white English is inseparable from the issues of mental health and bodily survival . . . If we accept “pacification” to mean the murdering of unarmed villagers, and “self-reliance” to mean bail money for Lockheed Corporation and bail money for the mis-managers of the Pennsylvania Railroad, on the one hand, but also, if we allow “self-reliance” to mean starvation and sickness and misery for poor families, for the aged, and for the permanently disabled/permanently discriminated against—then our mental health is seriously in peril: we have entered the world of doublespeak-bullshit, and our lives may soon be lost behind that entry.
White power uses white English as a calculated, political display of power to control and eliminate the powerless. In America, that power belongs to white power. School, compulsory public school education, is the process whereby Black children first encounter the punishing force of this white power. “First grade” equals first contact with the politics of white language, and its incalculably destructive consequences for Black lives. This is what I mean, exactly: both Black and white youngsters are compelled to attend school. Once inside this system, the white child is rewarded for mastery of his standard, white English: the language he learned at his mother’s white and standard knee. But the Black child is punished for mastery of his non-standard, Black English; for the ruling elite of America have decided that non-standard is sub-standard, and even dangerous, and must be eradicated.
What I am going to talk about this morning is language from the Caribbean, the process of using English in a different way from the “norm.” English in a new sense as I prefer to call it. English in an ancient sense. English in a very traditional sense. And sometimes not English at all, but language.
We in the Caribbean have a similar kind of plurality: we have English, which is the imposed language on much of the archipelago. English is an imperial language, as are French, Dutch, and Spanish. We have what we call creole English, which is a mixture of English and an adaptation that English took in the new environment of the Caribbean when it became mixed with the other imported languages. We have also what is called nation language, which is the kind of English spoken by the people who were brought to the Caribbean, not the official English now, but the language of slaves and labourers, the servants who were brought in by the conquistadors. Finally, we have the remnants of ancestral languages still persisting in the Caribbean [Amerindian, Hindi, and African languages].