By Briana Whiteside
The African American Studies 6th Annual Symposium, “Speaking While Black (or Brown): Language and Race in the U.S,” took place at the University of Texas San Antonio (UTSA) on April 11, 2013. The symposium panels focused on a range of issues, including how language use shapes biracial identity, cultural stigmas, and the linguistic consequences of the African Slave trade on African American experiences in the U.S. The symposium was organized by Sonja Lanehart, Marcheta Evans, Lisa Firmin, and Joycelyn Moody.
Scholars at the symposium discussed the language obstacles surrounding politicians of color, the “improper” use of language in the classroom, how politeness functions in African American communities, and how artists such as Nikki Minaj use language to “demonstrate agency in marginalized” spaces.
The concerns about linguistic contents, racial exploitation, and identity constructions raised at the symposium were especially useful to consider. The sociolinguistic, cultural fusions, and analyses surrounding race in America were helpful in explaining how and why African American language practices remain so intriguing and political.
Briana Whiteside is a graduate student in English at SIUE and a contributing writer for the Black Studies Program.