Should We Talk White? The Article Analysis Example

Is code-switching called for, or should standard English be swapped with African American Vernacular English? Jamelle Bouie wants to comment on a viral video of a woman, who strongly believes in the last argument, in his article "Talking White" - and he doesn't agree.

Jamelle Bouie is a Charlottesville, Virginia and D.C. based chief political correspondent for Slate Magazine, in which said article is published. He is furthermore political analyst for CBS News and he has degrees in government and religious studies. Bouie's target group is educated, politically active and influential. Therefore, he reaches people who might have an influence on other news outlets and/or who are able to debate and spread the word. (the word obviously being his intention and point of this article)

Bouie's article is based on a viral video of a young black woman criticizing AAVE (African American Vernacular English). The woman's main arguments seem to be that AAVE is a reaction to not wanting to speak SAE (Standard American English) because it makes it sound "as though you have more than a fifth-grade education" . As described by the author, the woman's, as well as "many Americans, including blacks", view of the quandary is that "black Americans disparage 'proper English' and education and use a 'broken' version of the language," . Bouie disagrees. In an attempt to convince the reader otherwise, Bouie goes into a deep research of where the "pathology of black anti-intellectualism" comes from.

Bouie's article features a large use of borrowed ethos. It begins with a historical reference: "When the Oakland, California, school board approved Ebonics for use in its schools in 1996, a flurry of public figures condemned the decision. At the time, linguists protested the criticism." By showing that linguists "approved" the use of Ebonics in school, Bouie is backed up by experts. Bouie has now confirmed that there's nothing grammatically wrong or "incorrect" about AAVE.

Then, Bouie uses empiricism to show the woman from the video's point of view. "Still, it is true that so-called "proper English" is associated with white people. And there are many anecdotes and stories of black teenagers disparaging one another for using Standard English," . In the quote logos and ethos, in the form of previous experiences/occurrences, are used as an argument.

Next, Bouie uses John Ogbu, professor of anthropology at Berkeley University, as another expert example to add onto his list of borrowed ethos. Ogbu, a thorough source with decades of experience, delves into black culture. Ogbu writes in his book that he believes there are certain factors that alter the level of brilliance from black children. Ogbu focuses on systemic racism and that it sets black people up for failure from the beginning. Another author, Ron Christie, agrees with Ogbu and "argues that blacks lag in educational outcomes because of a cultural bias against academic achievement." Bouie brings two compatible arguments to the table. That black children's level of intellectualism depends on societal factors and that black people are behind in education because of a said cultural bias against intellectualism.

Bouie supports these points with newer research. "... racialized stigma against high achievement exists. But it requires specific circumstances," The research from a group of sociologists agrees that it's under specific factors, the anti-intellectual culture becomes a problem. Furthermore, a school counselor adds on that in predominantly white schools, during courses with few black people, black people have a feeling of not belonging. Aforementioned empirical argument also poses as a pathos claim, as the reader must sympathize for black people that feel like they're in the wrong place.

A contrasting argument from a Harvard economist's study showed that there was no connection between getting good grades and social acceptance in predominantly black schools. Bouie shows all different kinds of arguments and sides of the discussion, in order to seem objective. His own opinion is revealed in the end, which will be brought up later in this essay.

An interesting fact is brought up by Bouie, which is that the anti-intellectual culture isn't exclusively part of black culture. "... an anti-intellectual culture existed among whites as well: informants indicate the presence of a much less achievement-oriented academic culture." The sociologists from earlier explain that the anti-culture transpires in white culture as well. It is backed up by a description of fearing parents, who want to avoid the label "elitism".

To bring up a completely different view: In another article, written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, the idea of an anti-intellectual culture is rebuked. He quotes a man that believes that "far too many of our children see the behaviors that lead to success in school as fundamentally foreign to their conception of authentic blackness." Coates reprehends that the quoter doesn't have anything to back him up but his own perception of society, and he simply disagrees. Like Bouie, Coates uses empiricism and logos to prove his point, but he doesn't have any research studies aiding him.

An important aspect of the article that Bouie wishes to get across is that he isn't denying "racialized ridiculing", he simply wants to point out that anti-culture isn't part of "black culture", which he proved with all the research studies he supplied throughout the article. And that seems to be one of Bouie's intentions in the article: To convince that disdain for academic achievement and SAE isn't part of black culture.

Bouie uses his research to analyze the woman from the video's view. "Knowing what we now know about "acting white", we should read this complaint in a different light." Bouie uses the pronoun "we" to create a feeling of community for him and his readers, which yanks out the pathos. He creates a feeling for the reader of "we've went through all these arguments together and now we can figure out whether or not we agree with the woman". He continues: "If her peers have mocked her for 'talking white', it might have less to do with her use of Standard English overall and more to do with its use in an unusual setting. she isn't being mocked for the English as much as she is for her refusal to code-switch" . And that is the other main point; Bouie thinks it's wrong of her to not code-switch and conform herself in different situations. If she chooses to talk formal English in a situation where it isn't called for, she might come across as elitist and aloof.

Does Bouie convince his reader? The reader must be able to understand the language and think themselves, as some of the points are written implicitly in the text. His composition is interesting, as he begins with a case, takes the reader on a journey through the entire discussion/theory behind the case and then applies these arguments on the case. Combine that with the depth the article covers by using empirical and ethos arguments, it results in a very convincing piece.


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