It’s not enough to maintain that non-standard English hinders opportunities for young people in the workplace. It also is a handicap in the judicial system (“Speaking Black Dialect in Courtrooms Can Have Striking Consequences,” The New York Times, Jan. 27).
Researchers found that even certified court reporters regularly made errors in transcribing sentences spoken in what linguists term African-American English. On average, they did so in two out of every five sentences. Such errors have serious consequences by confusing jurors about what defendants say. It’s not just white court reporters who blunder but black court reporters as well.
The results of the study have widespread implications for public schools, where not that many years ago Ebonics was being considered. Because blacks are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system, their very freedom from prison hangs in the balance.
When busing began at the high school where I taught for 28 years, I had trouble understanding what many students were saying. But trying to point out the need to speak standard English was frowned on by the district as being insensitive.
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