This, too, Will Snatch Your Edges

By: Traci Parker

Traci- blog #1.jpg
(Creative Commons/ Flickr)

Ebonics is ‘trendy’ when the right mouth is speaking it. Many Americans forget about or, rather, neglect Ebonics. It’s real. And it’s lit.

In case you don’t know what Ebonics is, the word refers to an African American vernacular that was a product of American slavery. Linguistically, Ebonics is not just slang. In 1973, a group of black intellectuals coined the term Ebonics, in an attempt to implement the study of African American vernacular and to change the negative interpretations associated with ‘black speech’. Here’s an example of what Ebonics might sound like, “You betta comb ya kitchen!” There’s a lot going on here. For one, you’ll notice that the word ‘better’ has lost its ‘er’ and gained an ‘ah’ sound. This is a regular trend in Ebonics. Second, the word ‘you’ has been changed phonetically to sound like ‘yah’; Ebonics often exaggerates vowels, or changes them from from short sounds to long ones. Lastly, the word ‘kitchen’ is used in a unique way. This word references afro-textured hair, and relates to the hair at the very nape of one’s neck. Linguists have surmised that Ebonics shares similarities with other English-based Creole languages, such as Patois.From British Caribbean slavery came Patois, which is an English-based language with West African influences that is spoken throughout many parts of the Anglophone Caribbean most notably Jamaica. Also, in Haiti slaves under French colonization created Haitian Creole, also spelled Kreyòl, with linguistic influences from French but also Portuguese, Spanish, English, Taíno and West African languages. In the United States, black people created Ebonics.

This term is not widely used, even amongst black people in America, because Ebonics often correlates to “speaking improper English.” which is actually quite true. The problem is, this way of speaking is looked down upon in this country. Well, it’s looked down upon until white America decides to popularize it, like Miley Cyrus claiming she’s “bout dat life” – then it’s cool.

Here’s another example: “On fleek.” Eyebrows on fleek. Hair on fleek.Outfit on fleek. Where did this phrase come from? None other than America’s black community. Did I see a Ruby Tuesday’s billboard advertisement that said, “Salad Bar On Fleek”? Yes, yes I did.

You see, Ebonics has been associated with a lack of education because black people in America were just allotted equal education some sixty years ago.

So, you might wonder how the title fits into this rant. The latest phrase that is sweeping the nation is “edges snatched.” #edgessnatched is the new #onfleek according to popsugar.com. Seriously. An article from this website outlines fifteen online slang words you need to know in order to be cool. So many of these words are linked to black slang – to Ebonics. On Fleek. Extra. AF. Hunty (with regards to the LGBTQI community). Sis. Sus. All of these words originated from the creativeness that is black American culture. Think about it: when African Americans were brought to the U.S., all traces of African culture, language, food, names, and music were almost all lost. There was a blank slate upon which a new culture was built and is still being built.

And as it is being built, it is simultaneously being extrapolated and assimilated into a broader, American culture. I, for one, do not want to see this happen. I think it’s great for everyone to share culture and engage in other cultures, but I don’t want to see black culture usurped into something international without proper recognition.

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison is a perfect example of why this extrapolation of culture is important. A passage from her novel describes a type of self-conscious black girl, who is constantly altering her body to fit America’s standard of beauty:

“The laugh that is a little too loud; the enunciation a little too round; the gesture a little too generous. They hold their behind in for fear of a sway too free; when they wear lipstick, they never cover the entire mouth for fear of lips too thick, and they worry, worry, worry about the edges of their hair” (Morrison, 83).

Black American girls might be the only group of women that worry so heavily about the edges of their hair. For some, edge control and gel products are a necessity, and this ‘trendy’ new phrase comes from this obsession with the curly, kinky, and coily edges so many black girls fight to get rid of. It is a joke that most black American girls will understand because of this part of our existence – the part that’s had a Eurocentric beauty standard embedded into us since birth.

It’s easy to say that this is just slang, that I’m overreacting, that we’re all just sensitive millennial snowflakes, and we’re offended by any and everything, but that’s just it. If it’s easy for you to dismiss the extrapolation of black American culture on an international spectrum, then you have had the privilege to never worry, worry, worry about the edges of your hair. Lucky you.


3 thoughts on “This, too, Will Snatch Your Edges

By: Traci Parker

  1. I feel the frustration and disrespect that must have motivated you to write this piece. I have learned something today! Thanks, SRP

  2. You can’t control culture, sorry. I understand the argument, and totally empathize, but it’s not a realistic thing to be concerned about right now. The spread and normalization of black slang and culture is a beautiful thing, and in fact is much more likely to contribute to minimizing racism than culturally isolating ourselves will. Doesn’t really matter though, people are gonna adopt what they like whether you approve of it or not. This is a slippery slope though, and I don’t want to live in a world based in the premise of forced cultural segregation.

    1. American black people have not at any point in history been able to enjoy the richness of their own culture since it has been usurped from the beginning. The author isn’t calling for cultural segregation, but for African Americans to reclaim their culture. This doesn’t mean sharing culture can’t happen anymore, but when we eat samosas we credit them to India, when we listen to salsa we credit that to Latin America, but when we talk about Jazz, we don’t link it back to the black community. We say it’s not right for black people to claim it, since everyone should be able to participate. Somethings not right there, and a problem is a problem, whether you feel it deserves attention or not.

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