Mike Adams

Some people call them “wiggers” but I just call them “idiots”. I used to wonder where they learned to be so racially condescending - presuming that dressing and “talking black” was a cool thing to do. But now I suspect that many of them have taken a course under Maurice Martinez, an education professor at UNC-Wilmington.

The class “Teacher, School, and Society” (EDN 200) is required of all education majors. When students take Maurice Martinez for the class they get a special treat. Maurice teaches them “Black English.” In 2003, he even copyrighted course materials to make white future teachers fluent in “Black English.”

To think I used to call ebonics the “new black death.” In retrospect, that was mighty Caucasian of me – and that isn’t a good thing. If only I had taken Professor Martinez for “Teacher, School, and Society” I would know better.

In his class, students are taught that “many African Americans speak and use a form of English that is somewhat different from Standard English.” They also learn that “the rules of Black American English are functional to those who use them.”

Professor Martinez states that “Many teachers are unaware of the rules of Black American English.” But he does not blame white teachers. In fact, he says the blame “should not be placed upon the student or the teacher, but upon ‘unawareness.’”

Maurice believes that if we wish to succeed in our “No child left behind” efforts we can begin by “trying to understand the language spoken by African American children.” Maurice cautions that “not all 36 million African Americans choose to speak Black English, especially the educated middle and upper income blacks.”

Game Change FREE

I wasn’t surprised to hear that many “educated middle and upper income blacks” refrain from the use of Black English. But, then again, I wasn’t surprised the first time I heard that “more people are in prison despite the fact that crime is down.”

Maurice devotes dozens of pages of class notes to teaching white future teachers the specifics of Black English. It isn’t rocket science but it’s darned close. For example, Maurice teaches his students that while whites use terms like “This, that, them, these, and those” blacks often say “Dis, dat, dem, dese, and dose.” His notes say “There is a ‘duh’ sound substituted for the ‘th’ sound in the beginning of the word.

Actually, the “duh” sound was the student reaction to Professor Martinez’ lecture. There are some things so obvious that even education majors can learn them on their own.

Mike Adams

Mike Adams is a criminology professor at the University of North Carolina Wilmington and author of Letters to a Young Progressive: How To Avoid Wasting Your Life Protesting Things You Don't Understand.