Erasing blood of past, shifting Afro-Caribbean narratives


“Erasing blood of past, shifting Afro-Caribbean narratives,” is a piece by political science major Margarita Rosario. Her column, A Woman’s Place is in Politics, is published every other week by The Daily Targum (Rutgers University’s student-written and student-managed newspaper). Here, she explores language, linguistic creolization,

The vast history of linguistic creolization in the Americas finds its origin in the forced and violent encounter between African peoples and their European conquerors. From this origin we can trace the development of dialects which today we disparage as “broken” or “ghetto,” aberrant from European notions of propriety, lacking in linguistic sophistication, purged of semiotic and intellectual value –– non-human. The linguistic marker that today distinguishes “civilized” from “uncivilized” communities amounts to the perhaps traumatic experience of being an Afro-descendant in the United States as well as in Latin America.

[.. .] “Creolization,” as many before me have put it, can be described as the historical process of intermixing between African and European cultures, easily conceptualized and empirically attested as having harsher consequences for African-descending communities, as creolization is a forced process of cultural, religious, aesthetic and linguistic adaptation to dominant cultures. The necessary process of creolization (for purposes of survival and adaptation) should itself be taken as part of the African diasporatic history, as part of what makes our language, our cultures and even as that which unites Afro-Caribbeans, Afro-Latinos, Africans and Afro-Americans under one umbrella of linguistic oppression, and in that way, under one unified potentiality for linguistic liberation.

Jamila Lyiscott’s Ted Talk “Three ways to speak English” offers a beautiful exploration into how we may learn to free ourselves of the linguistic barriers of dominant culture. Emerging from an Afro-Caribbean background, Lyiscott poetically elucidates what it is to be “articulate” in America and why we are to reject that notion and force in its place a notion of “articulateness” that is multi-lingual, multi-cultural and benevolent to creolized tongues. She recites, “Yes, I have decided to treat all three of my languages as equals. Because I’m ‘articulate.’ But who controls articulation? Because the English language is a multifaceted oration. Subject to indefinite transformation,” and later continues, “The reason I speak a composite version of your language. Is because mine was raped away along with my history. I speak broken English so the profusing gashes can remind us. That our current state is not a mystery.” No, our current state is clear as day, felt every day in every way. Carriers of my blood, descendants from the Nile: I know you will understand.

If you do not, allow me to illustrate: The repression of language has functioned to erase Haitian-descendants from Dominican lands in the Trujillo Era (see “perejil test”), has functioned to erase African-American dialogue and slave narratives from the literary canon, has functioned to erase ghetto-discourses from comfortably residing outside of “ghetto” spaces, has functioned to impede black Americans from achieve voter status, has functioned to make each time my father is unfairly stopped by the police a moment of derogatory surveillance, has functioned to make my brothers feel unsafe in the presence of authority, has functioned to erase the music, literature and poetry that is marked with authenticity and has functioned to erase the history that is ours. [. . .]

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