Design a site like this with
Get started

Language and identity

In this article, “Iggy Azalea’s post-racial mess: America’s oldest race tale, remixed,” I agreed and disagreed on many items but will focus on language as identity and cultural representations that come with vernacular. I can understand the idea of someone being a “poiser” appropriating a culture of black and brownness to make a dollar or to try and gain some “street cred.” Growing up, I remember criticizing those that would use our lingo but had nothing to do with the life it represented. I now see this as to; how does this belong to any one group? We all have overlap, so who is to say they do not have a claim to this language as well. What is the level of living in the circumstances, environment, or experiences to qualify one for ownership of the culture? I grew up as a lowrider, not a gang member, and my dad moved us away from the drug-infested barrio, yet I feel I have equal rights to the use of pachuco or Tex-Mex. I moved away from the neighborhood, so did I lose my claim? I am in a private university; do I lose my rights? I remember Michael Irving’s interview (former hall of fame Dallas Cowboys player). He mentioned he was taking classes to learn how to articulate words better, and he was getting called a sell-out. I am paraphrasing from memory; his response was, why is trying to better myself a sell-out? Why is it when I am trying to get better at my profession seen as me selling out my culture or trying to be whiter? My question here, too, is when did white people get sole ownership of education or sounding educated? “In the predominantly white classrooms of my school days, though, proficient use of “standard” English showed those white folks that I had every right to be there, that I was just as good if not better.” I had my struggles with this growing up and even developed a linguistical complex. The author mentions:

To be clear, I know all of the problems with the phrases “sound Black” and “sonic Blackness.” As a kid, I was mercilessly teased for and accused of “talking white,” “acting white,” and basically attempting to “be white.” I learned during those difficult days to dissent from social norms that suggested that the only English for Black people is a vernacular English that stands adjacent to “corporate,” “standard,” or white.

The author has a similar experience as I did. I had to sound more Mexican than other Mexicans to fit in, and I had to speak master “standard” English to fit in academia.

I speak English without a Spanish accent. In some views, I was considered a white “wantabe,” my spoken Spanish is also without an accent. Now I am seen as an outside non-American an immigrant, I also am fluent in pachuco, that makes me a gangster or uneducated. I am at least a little of all those identities, and I am so much more, but because I belong or may have other connections to other identities, do I lose my right to own multiple identities? In my business, someone described me as the one that did not speak Spanish because I had no accent. I took that to heart and began to use Spanglish more so everyone would know I spoke both languages. I have so many more questions after this article. The author states:

“I resent Iggy Azalea for her co-optation and appropriation of sonic Southern Blackness, particularly the sonic Blackness of Southern Black women. Every time she raps the line “tell me how you luv dat,” in her song “Fancy,” I want to scream “I don’t love dat!” I hate it. The line is offensive because this Australian born-and-raised white girl almost convincingly mimics the sonic register of a downhome Atlanta girl.”

So, when Justin Bieber used Spanish in “Despacito,” was it ok or not? When a non-Hispanic learns Spanish to make themselves more marketable or gets a pay increase for being bilingual, is this wrong? According to this article’s definition, this would be appropriation, but things are not as easy as defining the word. There is so much more that goes into determining what appropriation is or not. You have the court of public opinion artists like Drake do not get the same criticism (he was raised in affluent neighborhood), and to keep their persona, some rappers downplay their college education.

Iggy Azalea interlopes on this finely honed soundscape of Southern Blackness to tell us “how fancy” she is and ask “how we love dat.” Her recklessness makes clear that that she does not understand the difference between code-switching and appropriation.  She may get the science of it, but not the artistry. Appropriation is taking something that doesn’t belong to you and wasn’t made for you, that is not endemic to your experience, that is not necessary for your survival and using it to sound cool and make money. Code-switching is a tool for navigating a world hostile to Blackness and all things non-white. It allows one to move at will through all kinds of communities with as minimal damage as possible.

The article says: “Though rap music is a Black and Brown art form, one does not need to mimic Blackness to be good at it. Ask the Beastie Boys, or Eminem, or Macklemore.” I think content is more of what I see as appropriation or not. Are the lyrics about a life experience they did not experience? Is Drake talking about drug-infested streets when he did not live those experiences? Is a white rapper using lyrical lines of police harassment when he never experienced it? As I write this reflection, I am listening to Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Biggie, and more 90s rappers.  My opinion may be different because of my history of experiences with not fitting in one box and trying to survive multiple identities. I share my culture, and I do not mind when I hear a white artist borrow it in a song. I do mins and have a problem when someone uses lyrics about how hard life was in the hood if they did not get to experience it.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: