The English language and its role in an evolving social climate

What is language, and what separates different languages from each other? What makes one language superior to another? Why are some languages “dying”? These are just some of the questions that came to mind when I read the title “Should writers use they own English?”. As a musician many of my academic conversations are centered around language; both the language of music and how different cultures can be integrated and communicate with each other through a medium other than spoken words. I can’t even begin to count how many times my teachers or colleagues have uttered the phrase “music is a universal language” and act like they've solved the mystery of life. However, if this statement was true, wouldn’t we be much closer to achieving a world filled with tolerance and understanding for each other?

The reason that this statement isn’t our reality is because language is more often used as a tool to divide us rather than bring us together. As Young explains, the standards for English that we all live under are used to deepen racial divides, class divides, and increase tensions between communities that need to coexist. While there are laws to prevent obvious discrimination against minorities, language is used as a more subtle tool to disenfranchise them. Ignorant people in the majority often cajole the African American population for being “uneducated” or “lazy” but refuse to examine the social structures that have been holding those groups back for eons. It shocks me that people vocalize these criticisms when their behavior is what furthers the issue. Are we really going to disparage African American vernacular for being “improper” when WE were the majority that denied them access to “proper” education?! You can’t fix a perceived “issue” while still feeding into the system that created it! I think that the real issue is elitist individuals who use their privilege to create new generations of disenfranchised non-native English speakers.

This article sparked a lot of anger within me, mainly because I think it is so unfair that certain communities are STILL discriminated against because of their workaround to a problem our ancestors imposed upon them. There is no hope for achieving a universal language (in the US) until EVERYONE recognizes the role that their support of the English language’s convoluted rules has played in slandering the intellectual abilities of the people it has been used to oppress. We all need to recognize that the differences between us are fabricated by those who benefit from our turmoil and the real differences are not determined by race or ethnicity, but purely in the ways that we were raised and the cultures we are apart of. Writers should be free to write in ways that illustrate their ideas how they see fit, and individuals who enforce the oppressive system need to adapt and understand the historical prejudices that have shaped their view on what is correct and incorrect. Only then will we be on the path to achieving tolerance and understanding.