For The George Zimmerman Defense…Race

Kind of hard to escape the last few days evisceration of the first prosecution witness in the Trayvon Martin murder case by the media.  And the role race has played in that.

Rachel Jeantel can’t read cursive. That’s the main takeaway from the fourth day of the George Zimmerman trial: Jeantel, the heavyset, snappy prosecution witness who was on the phone with her friend Trayvon Martin minutes before he died, cannot read script handwriting. Defense attorney Don West underlined that fact for the benefit of the jury, the general public, and everyone else looking for an excuse to dismiss her testimony.

Given the extent to which Jeantel’s demeanor was covered on television and in news articles, you’d be excused for thinking—as Jezebel’s Callie Beusman put it—that she was the one on trial. Over the past couple of days, Jeantel has recounted that Martin told her he was being followed by a “creepy-ass cracker” who, it seems, then proceeded to attack him. Pundits, meanwhile, have made snickering observations that have had little to do with the substance of her testimony. They’ve criticized Jeantel’s weight, her attitude, her manner of dress, and her mumbling, inarticulate answers to West’s questions. These observations are generally framed as discussions of her credibility and how she’ll be received by the jury. But they’re also an excuse to point and laugh at a poor, black teenager who comes from an America that we’d rather not acknowledge exists.

The media has consistently treated Jeantel as if she were some sassy alien life-form. TheNew York Daily News story about yesterday’s proceedings focused on Jeantel-as-sideshow, calling the cursive story an “especially cringe-worthy moment,” and noting that, “[a]t one point, the key prosecution witness blurted out, ‘That’s retarded, Sir’ in response to West’s suggestion that Martin attacked Zimmerman.” On Piers Morgan Tonight, Morgan repeated the phrase “creepy-ass cracker” as if it were some inscrutable bit of baby talk. The day before, panelist Jayne Weintraub disdainfully asserted that “it’s really not about this young woman’s … credibility, because her credibility, it’s a wash whatever her testimony is. Yes, she was a difficult witness. She was impossible.”…

Racial and socioeconomic stereotypes play differently in different contexts. The statements and mannerisms that make Jeantel a laughingstock now might have made her a viral video star outside the courtroom. As I was watching Jeantel’s testimony and the subsequent reaction, I couldn’t help thinking about Aisha Harris’ Slate piece from Mayabout the “fairly recent trend of ‘hilarious’ black neighbors, unwitting Internet celebrities whose appeal seems rooted in a ‘colorful’ style that is always immediately recognizable as poor or working-class.” Charles Ramsey, Antoine Dodson, Sweet Brown—these people caught white America’s attention in part because they so blatantly violated normative behavior. If Jeantel would’ve been filmed saying “That’s retarded, sir” to some reporter on the streets outside her house, the Internet might well be singing her praises. Black people are celebrated when they play the fool in the proper setting.

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Cornbread and Cuban

It would seem that growing up, Cornbread didn’t spend much time outside of the back of the bus…

Herman Cain asks how to speak ‘Cuban’

hermancain-screen

 

Guess somebody ought to tell him what happens when you mix Cornbread with Cuban Soul food!

 

 

The View – Heated Discussion over the N-Word

Sheri Sheppard goes off over Brbara Walters use of the N-Word reporting a story about Rick Perry’s Ranch…

And here in Part 2, things get a bit heated…

Whoopi keeps it together.

Ebonics Translator Jobs!

Damn, I know the slang in the city moves pretty fast – but this is amazing! A problem I can see they are going to have immediately is regionalization. The Gangstas in Atlanta don’t speak the same language as the Gangstas in New York…

It don’t mean a thang if it ain’t got that twang!

Ain’t it funny after all these years of trying to get young urban folks to speak the English Language…

Now they got a career speaking “Ghetto”?

Yo' Dawg!

Justice Department Seeks Ebonics Experts

The Department of Justice is seeking to hire linguists fluent in Ebonics to help monitor, translate, and transcribe the secretly recorded conversations of subjects of narcotics investigations, according to federal records.

A maximum of nine Ebonics experts will work with the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Atlanta field division, where the linguists, after obtaining a “DEA Sensitive” security clearance, will help investigators decipher the results of “telephonic monitoring of court ordered nonconsensual intercepts, consensual listening devices, and other media”

The DEA’s need for full-time linguists specializing in Ebonics is detailed in bid documents related to the agency’s mid-May issuance of a request for proposal (RFP) covering the provision of as many as 2100 linguists for the drug agency’s various field offices. Answers to the proposal were due from contractors on July 29.

In contract documents, which are excerpted here, Ebonics is listed among 114 languages for which prospective contractors must be able to provide linguists. The 114 languages are divided between “common languages” and “exotic languages.” Ebonics is listed as a “common language” spoken solely in the United States.

Ebonics has widely been described as a nonstandard variant of English spoken largely by African Americans. John R. Rickford, a Stanford University professor of linguistics, has described it as “Black English” and noted that “Ebonics pronunciation includes features like the omission of the final consonant in words like ‘past’ (pas’ ) and ‘hand’ (han’), the pronunciation of the th in ‘bath’ as t (bat) or f (baf), and the pronunciation of the vowel in words like ‘my’ and ‘ride’ as a long ah (mah, rahd).”

Detractors reject the notion that Ebonics is a dialect, instead considering it a bastardization of the English language.

The Department of Justice RFP does not, of course, address questions of vernacular, dialect, or linguistic merit. It simply sought proposals covering the award of separate linguist contracts for seven DEA regions. The agency spends about $70 million annually on linguistic service programs, according to contract records.

In addition to the nine Ebonics experts, the DEA’s Atlanta office also requires linguists for eight other languages, including Spanish (144 linguists needed); Vietnamese (12); Korean (9); Farsi (9); and Jamaican patois (4). The Atlanta field division, one of the DEA’s busiest, is the only office seeking linguists well-versed in Ebonics. Overall, the “majority of DEA’s language requirements will be for Spanish originating in Central and South America and the Caribbean,” according to one contract document.

The Department of Justice RFP includes a detailed description of the crucial role a linguist can play in narcotics investigations. They are responsible for listening to “oral intercepts in English and foreign languages,” from which they provide verbal and typed summaries. “Subsequently, all pertinent calls identified by the supervising law enforcement officer will be transcribed verbatim in the required federal or state format,” the RFP notes.

No Habanero English!

The Queen of Stupid, and current defacto head of the Republican Party - the Sno' Ho'

With the right wing fuming about “English spoken” you would think conservatives would learn to use the language themselves. I mean – if we are going to mandate that everyone speak English in this country…

That means the ignorant conservative types too.

Have ou noticed how many times conservatives go into a furor over something said by a Democrat Politician – only to find out it is a tempest in a teapot (or is that Teabag?) . Once upon a time conservative pundits were masters of the language looking down their narrow noses at the unwashed masses in distaste…

Now, its getting damn hard to find a conservative who can conjugate a verb…

Although they seem to be experts on that conjugation part when it involves somebody you’re not supposed to be “conjugating” with!

Part of the communication problem between those of us on the left and the conservatives…

Is simply they take pride in their ignorance, and can’t understand the English Language – “Is our children learning”…Indeed.

Many English Speakers Cannot Understand Basic Grammar

Research into grammar by academics at Northumbria University suggests that a significant proportion of native English speakers are unable to understand some basic sentences.

The findings — which undermine the assumption that all speakers have a core ability to use grammatical cues — could have significant implications for education, communication and linguistic theory.

The research, conducted by Dr Ewa Dabrowska, showed that basic elements of core English grammar had not been mastered by some native speakers.

The project assumed that every adult native speaker of English would be able to understand the meaning of the sentence:

The soldier was hit by the sailor.”

Dr Dabrowska and research student James Street then tested a range of adults, some of whom were postgraduate students, and others who had left school at the age of 16. All participants were asked to identify the meaning of a number of simple active and passive sentences, as well as sentences which contained the universal qualifier “every.” Continue reading

Lost in Translation

Most countries which are tourist destinations try and put up signs in multiple languages. Sometimes, things get a little lost in translation…

Remember the first Hitachi computers which came to the US. Phenomenal engineering and quality – but the manuals were sometimes difficult to understand. One of the Japanese-English translation errors in those early days was the transfer of “L’s” for “R’s”, since apparently there is no “l” sound in Japanese. As such, “check the LEDs” (Light Emitting Diodes) became “Check the Reds”. Since the LEDs in question could be green, yellow, or red depending on status – that sometimes resulted in bit of confusion. Translation from one language to another can be a land mine, as I recently learned (the hard way) having some documents translated into French…

And here you thought when you opened that box containing the kid’s bicycle after Christmas – and couldn’t make sense of the directions…

It was you.

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