Goodreads Monday: Articulate While Black

Goodreads Monday is a weekly meme where we randomly select a book from our Goodreads To Be Read list and share it with the world. It’s hosted by Lauren’s Page Turners, so be sure to link back to her site so that we can all see what everyone plans to read!


 

13690153Articulate While Black: Barack Obama, Race, and Language in America
By H. Samy Alim and Geneva Smitherman
Non-Fiction
192 pages
First published in September 2012

From Goodreads: Barack Obama is widely considered one of the most powerful and charismatic speakers of our age. Without missing a beat, he often moves between Washington insider talk and culturally Black ways of speaking–as shown in a famous YouTube clip, where Obama declined the change offered to him by a Black cashier in a Washington, D.C. restaurant with the phrase, “Nah, we straight.”

In Articulate While Black, two renowned scholars of Black Language address language and racial politics in the U.S. through an insightful examination of President Barack Obama’s language use–and America’s response to it. In this eloquently written and powerfully argued book, H. Samy Alim and Geneva Smitherman provide new insights about President Obama and the relationship between language and race in contemporary society. Throughout, they analyze several racially loaded, cultural-linguistic controversies involving the President–from his use of Black Language and his “articulateness” to his “Race Speech,” the so-called “fist-bump,” and his relationship to Hip Hop Culture.

Using their analysis of Barack Obama as a point of departure, Alim and Smitherman reveal how major debates about language, race, and educational inequality erupt into moments of racial crisis in America. In challenging American ideas about language, race, education, and power, they help take the national dialogue on race to the next level. In much the same way that Cornel West revealed nearly two decades ago that “race matters,” Alim and Smitherman in this groundbreaking book show how deeply “language matters” to the national conversation on race–and in our daily lives.


 

I came across this in an article about books on English usage in America. Despite our lack of an official national language, language itself is a contentious issue even for– perhaps especially for– people who speak only English. We like to think that there is a ‘standard American English’, but the truth is that the language varies from region and cultural group to another. I have a lot to learn about race relations in the US, and language is one of the facets I feel I should know more about.

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