Slang comes from Black, LGBTQ communities. Not honoring that is racist


Tap through TikTok and you’ll fall down a slang-filled, dance-crazed rabbit hole a la “Alice in Wonderland.”

A piece of advice: Don’t repeat everything you hear on your sojourn down. Especially if you are white.

White people – on social media and in real life – regularly appropriate African American Vernacular English, or AAVE, like “slay” and “sis” without thinking, and some of these phrases come directly from the Black LGBTQ community. Experts say this perpetuates racism, erases Black contributions and fuels cultural misunderstandings. Simply put: It’s Black linguistic appropriation.

“The divorcing of Black people from the way that we talk is really just another way of liking what Black people do, but not liking Black people,” Nikki Lane, assistant professor at Spelman College, says. “It’s very Elvis to me. You’ll take our music, but you don’t give us credit.”

Take terms like “reading” (artfully insulting someone) or “shade” (a subtle insult). People gobbled up these words after watching the famous ballroom documentary “Paris is Burning,” but the film didn’t create them.

E. Patrick Johnson, dean of Northwestern’s School of Communication, says appropriating and commodifying Black culture from Black hairstyles to queer language is nothing new and in today’s society it’s inevitable that it will happen.

“But what is so wonderful is that these cultures keep inventing new language based on their experiences,” Johnson says. “So, while it is true that things are ‘stolen’ it’s also true that language keeps getting invented anew.”



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