Facets of Faith: misuse of AAVE


Hanl Brown

Staff reporter Faith Brocke expresses her emotions and experiences in her column, Facets of Faith.

Faith Brocke, Staff Reporter

Growing up Black in a predominantly Black-Latine area for a majority of my life has always impacted the way I react to and view the world around me.

Everything I see and hear are translated into my perception of life through the eyes of a Black young adult, which I’ve come to find that many view as a fascinating lens to glance through as opposed to a way of life–a pond to dip their toes in rather than a sea to plunge into.

This non-Black passerby attitude often leads to ignorant remarks, microaggressions, and subtle racism beyond the abhorrent overarching things like slurs and outward discrimination.

Sometimes these acts are more quiet, interwoven into language and treated as a joke.

African-American Vernacular English, abbreviated as AAVE, is commonly misused and mischaracterized as ‘Gen Z slang’ and is often appropriated by non-Black people for the sake of a joke.

One of the prime examples of this is the habitual be. Non-Black people often use it to refer to a current tense as opposed to an action that they do often and repeatedly—often coupled with a Blaccent (Black-accent; when someone alters their way of speaking and inflection to sound ‘more Black’, often taking on an aggressive, stereotypical tone in order to emulate the energy of a stereotypical Black person) this alteration makes for uncomfortable conversation.

The internet is rampant with cultural appropriation, especially when it comes to AAVE. 

‘Slay’ is also AAVE, and it seems beyond the scope of scrutiny; seemingly everyone says it, and often incorrectly, lacking regard for the roots of the word—it originated in Black, queer communities.

I lack the urgency to police the use of these words from non-Black people, seeing as I can’t control others, but it’s harder to temper myself when AAVE is used incorrectly.

A few weeks ago someone I know said ‘Do you wanna be slay?’ 

I had to swallow down the internal cringe fighting its way out of my mouth.

Not only is it grammatically incorrect, but it doesn’t make any sense. The habitual be is inapplicable in this sense, and contextually, ‘slay’ doesn’t belong in the sentence and could be replaced with…anything else.

The insistence in tearing pieces of a culture apart and reducing them to a trend for blind humor is frightening to say the least; one day my lens may be a few broken shards of glass.

To move forward and repair the obstructed perspective, non-Black people have to gain the self awareness and education on what they’re saying and how they’re saying it.