The concept of “Blaccent” or African American Vernacular English will always elude me. I don’t mean that on a conceptual level, but rather a practical one since I “talk white.” My voice has been a source of great pain throughout my life since the simple act of speaking earns me the ire, even if unintentionally, of a large swath of Black Americans. Whenever I meet other Black people, projections about my past, connection to my culture, and self-love are hurled before me as conversational obstacles outside of the already daunting process of forging a human connection. It kind of sucks, if I’m being honest.
There was a period when I thought about yielding. I was sick of wading through preconceived notions about who I was and why my existence was valid. I just wanted it to stop. For about a week, I dabbled in Blaccent to a surprisingly positive reception. Even though I found the social acceptance I’d been craving, I felt worse than before. I felt like a prisoner behind my skin instead of feeling like a captive to cultural expectations of how I should carry myself. It kind of sucked, if I’m being honest.
I’ll skip the boring bits about self-exploration and my brief and liberating dalliances with LSD to steer this bad boy back to the topic. I have no experience with Blaccent that isn’t from an outsider’s perspective. Ergo, I find the topic as intriguing as everyone that isn’t Black watching the discussion from the sidelines. I may have skin in the game in the literal sense, but not in the metaphorical equivalent.
My personal dealings with AAVE only make its continued usage by other races even more confusing. I’m viewed as a heretic if I abstain from using AAVE because it doesn’t feel congruent with my lexicon and sensibilities. However, other races that have an affinity for the style of speech, whether ironic or genuine, are barred from its usage. Obviously, the history of white performers using “Blaccent” for mockery and personal gain is a massive factor in Black America’s revile of appropriation, but, again, I can only speak about it academically instead of personally.
Hopefully, the video linked above can elucidate the concept and why Black Americans guard their unique brand of speech against a constant barrage of interlopers and invaders.
Now, if you fine folks will excuse me, this Tom Jones song won’t dance to itself.