North Texas Daily

“Internet Slang” is rooted in the appropriation of Black culture

“Internet Slang” is rooted in the appropriation of Black culture

“Internet Slang” is rooted in the appropriation of Black culture
October 28
14:00 2020

What exactly is African-American Vernacular English? AAVE or “ebonics” as some call it, derives from southern parts of the U.S. In essence, AAVE is an English dialect spoken by Black people that has its own grammatical structures, vocabulary and even accents. Formally, these said structures of AAVE are considered “ghetto talk” or “bad English” along with other microaggressions targeted towards the language of Black people. Though AAVE was born in the American south and shares many features with southern American English, it was born out of the sinister history of slavery.

Black Americans by and large did not voluntarily move to North America with like-minded people of a shared language and cultural background like the wave of European immigrants. Rather, they were torn from their homelands and sold into slavery, and systematically segregated from speakers of their own languages. Because of this, they had to take bits and pieces from the words they could understand to create their own dialect and vernacular. Doing this resulted in them being called stupid, dumb and other racially motivated derogatory terms.

 The use of AAVE has become intertwined in pop culture and gets absorbed by other communities, who strip the term of its context. Users of social media know the language, and some use it almost every day. Words like “lit,” “slay,” “period” and “chile” are just a few that have become populari. Often, since these words have become so popular, the slang and words attributed from AAVE are mixed up and labeled as “internet culture” or “internet slang.”

Additionally, the use of a “Blaccent” has become intertwined into comedic purposes used by non-Black people more than Black people themselves. Not only is this seen as racist, but diminishes the derivation of where the Blaccent and AAVE stem from.  Voluntaryily using a Blaccent for personal gain mocks Black people and appropriates their culture and dialect. Black culture is not something you can choose to occasionally use. 

These appropriations harmful for people who are not Black to use AAVE. They’re “just trendy slang words”, why can’t everyone say these? For starters, AAVE, when used by Black people, is often associated with undesirable parts of society like poverty, drugs, violence and gangs. When Black people use AAVE, they are discriminated against for it and are seen as uneducated or illiterate. In contrast, when corporations or non-Black people use it, they are co-opting its “cool” potential for their personal gain and giving nothing back to the community that created it.

For reference, Lily Singh and Awkafina have profited and made an entire career of appropriating AAVE and Black culture. Of course, this might be new knowledge to most, nor am I telling anyone to completely cut certain words and slang out from their vocabulary. It’s an impossible request. Rather, try not to act that it was created on Twitter or in stan culture because this mindset takes away from the fact Black women have been talking like this for many years. 

There are no hard and fast rules, but it is important to reflect on your usage of the language and to acknowledge where it comes from. Asking yourself questions is a part of the process. Is the language being commercialized for financial gain? Am I using this language to “level up” or earn myself “street cred”? Is the usage seen as performative and/or tokenizing? Am I in proximity to the culture that originated the term?

Lastly, using words that you don’t know the meaning or context of can be slightly embarrassing for you and people will laugh. Most people aren’t aware that their “internet slang” is actually appropriation, but learning to remove some of excessive use of these words from your everyday vocabulary is recommended if you are not a member of the Black community. 

Featured Illustration by J. Robynn Aviles

About Author

Shea Flores

Shea Flores

Related Articles


No Comments Yet!

There are no comments at the moment, do you want to add one?

Write a comment

Write a Comment

The Roundup

<script id="mcjs">!function(c,h,i,m,p){m=c.createElement(h),p=c.getElementsByTagName(h)[0],m.async=1,m.src=i,p.parentNode.insertBefore(m,p)}(document,"script","");</script>

Search Bar

Sidebar Thumbnails Ad

Sidebar Bottom Block Ad

Flytedesk Ad