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A Abe & Pappy’s Club, Deep Ellum, Dallas Texas African American Photography Archive sion, Baugh makes an interesting and respectable figure; but poor folks can’t eat sympathetic academic words, and rich and powerful class-warriors just ignore academic piety. I decided that my own life hasn’t been totally wasted when I was told that the departing Chancellor of the U.T. System had gone out of his way to mark me as a troublemaker. Thank you, Excellency! Geneva Smitherman wasn’t born to bedoctored parents. The daughter of a black preacher \(the Reverend member of her family to go to school beyond the seventh grade, she was born in the sharecropping community of Brownsville, Ten nessee, went “up South” when her family moved to Chicago and Detroit, and mastered street smarts in adventures which she promises to recount in a “work in progress” Quick intelligence made the future Doctor G ready for university work by age fifteen. A highly articulate woman \(I once sat beside her as she eviscerated John Simon on a formed that she had flunked the speech test for prospective teachers. She has never forgotten or forgiven that absurd judgment. Helped by a teaching assistant who sensibly taught the stupid test, Smitherman learned not to say “mouf,” passed the exam, and went on with her higher education. She encountered linguistics in the classes of Donald J. Lloyd at Wayne State; but the best of her education came from her independent reading of people like W.E.B. Dubois, Carter G. Woodson, Frantz Fanon, and the linguists Lorenzo Dow Turner and Beryl Bailey. Her studies have paid off in thirty years of teaching, research, and publication, perhaps most notably in the two books Talking and Testifyin and Black Talk, and in the present anthology of her best “articles and essays.” Its title reflects her long and arduous effort to enliven her “language of wider communication” with a vernacular admixture. Talkin that Talk is a more ambitious book than Beyond Ebonics sometimes too ambitious, as when Smitherman gets beyond her depth in reviewing Noam Chomsky’s Language and Responsibility. The first four of the book’s six parts are entitled “Ebonics, Language Theory, and Research,” “Language and Education of African Americans,” “Language and Culture,” and “Language Policy, Politics, and Power.” Language theory, language and culture, politics and power all in one book? My responses ranged from “Admirable!” to “How could she!” I was most put off by what I took to be a strain of ethnic separatism. If ethnic or ancestral separatism should ever become truly dominant in the United States, my extended family \(black, white, brown; Catholic, Protestant, Jewstroyed, and I personally would be subject to vivisection. Whatever the differences, however, between Beyond Ebonics and Talkin that Talk, the two books agree completely that Ebonics is a legitimate language and not to be insulted by the likes of Brent Smitherman states the further consensus of linguists that Ebonics shows traces of African languages and is not “simply a dialect of English which enslaved Africans learned from white speakers of various British dialects.” Neither is white English altogether white. When Smitherman lists “patterns of grammar and pronunciation in Ebonies,” I recognize many of them in my own familiar speech. Still can’t nobody say for sure who learned what from who. So there’s room for rational disagreement, but no call for hissification, when Smitherman urges both “official recognition of U.S. Ebonies” and “its use as a co-equal language of instruction in schools with large numbers of Eboniesspeaking students.” The real cause for distress \(though not, in say such things still provokes journalistic riots. “Ain we done been here befo?” Smitherman asked herself when the Ebonics flap began; for most of the issues raised in the late Nineties had been widely discussed in the Fifties, Sixties, and Seventies. THE TEXAS OBSERVER JULY 21, 2000