Of course, the Freddie Gray riots in Baltimore last week prompted the usual cries for “an honest conversation about race,” and countless appeals to fix the “broken” public school system. So, in the spirit of those pleas, I will advance a very plain and straightforward idea: above all, teach young black kids how to speak English correctly.
Nothing is more important than acculturating ghetto kids out of their pidgin patois and into real English with all of its tenses, verb forms, and cases. It’s more important initially than learning arithmetic, history, and science. I would argue that it is hardly possible to learn these other things without first being grounded in real grammatical English.
When these kids grow up, their manner of speech will identify them and their prospects for success at least as much as the color of their skin — and probably more, in my opinion. Their ability to speak English correctly will be the salient feature in how others assess the content of their character
I’m sure by now that the racial justice hand-wringers are squirming over this proposal. All dialects are equally okay in this rainbow society, they might argue. No they’re not. Have you noticed that TV news, business, show biz, education, and politics increasingly employ people whose parents came from India and other parts of Asia. Do they speak in a patois lacking in complex verb forms? Apparently not. Are they succeeding in American life, such as it is? Apparently so.
Notice that the speech issue — how people talk — is never part of the “honest conversation about race” that we are supposed to have. Has anybody noticed that in his public speeches Martin Luther King spoke regular English correctly, if with a Southern inflection? Has anybody noticed how important that was in his role as “a communicator?” Why is this crucial question of language absent from the public conversation about “the intractable problems of race in America?” Is it because both blacks and whites are too fearful, too cowardly, to face this particular problem of how English is spoken?