Recently, it seems as though non-Black usage of African American Vernacular English (AAVE) has seen a general increase. AAVE is a dialect of English that grew up around working-and-middle-class African American communities in largely urban areas. As to the factors of this rise, one cannot be certain. What is certain, however, is how it has grown to this campus.
It will come as no surprise to anyone reading this that Gonzaga is a campus more than filled with privileged white students. In fact, I would be lying given I did not rank myself among them. There is a very small population at GU that was actually brought up using AAVE in its various forms, but it seems that most of the population uses at least some of its components in some effort to fit into a culture that they know not of.
Largely, AAVE has been co-opted by a broader demographic as a sort of “trendy” language. While scrolling through something like Twitter, it takes hardly any time to see a non-Black person using AAVE. There are various issues with this.
The greatest of these issues is the cultural erasure that happens as a result of this. If this specific aspect of black culture is taken by all to use as they please, then how could we appreciate the ways in which this historic and integral group in America formed and changed throughout its many years? Non-Black usage of AAVE—especially by privileged white students—is a form of linguistic colonialism wherein the white person uses the language because they like it, not thinking about the larger impacts of utilizing this language.
Another effect of this usage is its inherent classism. Given the socioeconomic status of a great number of people on GU’s campus, the usage of AAVE on the campus by upper-class individuals wipes out the identity of this dialect that came from a largely working-class base. In this way, it is a form of class erasure.
As recent events have shown us, GU has a persistent issue with racism on its campus. If we tolerate this racist behavior all the while inappropriately using AAVE, how can we justify calling GU an inclusive campus?