Appropriation of AAVE


Examples of misuse in pop culture and how normalized it has become, as well as AAVE words and phrases.

African American Vernacular English Or AAVE has been around for years, and its roots trace all the way back to slavery. After over 400 years, the use of AAVE has become prevalent outside of black culture, which has led to extreme amounts of misuse. I’ve seen a language that I have been bullied and berated for using, reduced to “tik tok lingo”. Walking through the halls of Doherty High School I hear people using AAVE in the wrong way. I ask myself sometimes, “ Do they even know what that means?” But this issue goes beyond the Doherty High school community and reaches further than anyone could ever think.

I’ve seen countless examples across the media, take the career of actress Awkwafina who adopted a blaccent at the beginning of her career and spoke using mostly AAVE. This went on for years, but when her career began to reach new heights, most prominently a role in the movie Crazy Rich Asians, she completely dropped her blaccent and went from Awkwafina to just plain Nora. Another example is internet sensation Victoria Waldrip, more popularly known as“WoahVicky” became extremely popular after claiming that she was black and publicly using the n word among many other things. For years she continued to keep up the act, but recently she has dedicated her life to Christ and become just plain Victoria. These are just a couple examples of people who’ve appropriated black culture for their own benefit and went back to their roots when it was convenient for them.

Ms.Hienton an Administrator at Doherty says, “ It seems to me like kids and students will hear [AAVE] in pop culture, including music and online etc and then they think it sounds cool and they’re like adopting it, but in other things it’s completely out of context.” She continues, “I’ve only heard it in one snippet and I don’t know how it applies in other contexts, so I’m just going to try to use it over here.” Although there is no malice behind the adoption of other cultures, whether you know it or not misuse completely overshadows the cultural significance of AAVE and how much it truly means to the people who have used it their whole lives. The mindset that just because you think something is cool; or that you like something so much that you must make it your own is the root of erasure.

If you ask me there is nothing wrong with embracing parts of other cultures, but you should be mindful of where those parts come from and why they are important to that culture. You don’t have to research every aspect of everything, but if you’re not 100% sure what a word means, you shouldn’t use it. I try to educate others when I notice that they are using AAVE incorrectly, I’m almost always met with defensiveness, disrespect, and anger. In no way am I or any other black person who corrects you trying to offend you, we’re actually trying to help you and the amount of disrespect we receive is a slap in the face. The black community is not trying to own words or gatekeep them, we are simply trying to preserve the meaning of the beautiful language that is AAVE and its importance in black culture.