Thursday, February 25, 2010

Ask and Flush

I read this article yesterday. For those who are not inclined to tear themselves away from my wonderful site to read it, the article spoke of a certain republican radio talk show host who has a penchant for prescription pills and who's name rhymes with "Flush" making fun of what he thought was the President saying "ax" instead of "ask". I read the article (and listened to the audio clip) with disgust, but was immediately reminded of an incident in High School.

As you may know I went to a tony independent all girls schools in one of the wealthiest zip codes in Manhattan. My graduating class consisted of 24 girls, 5 of which were black (and shout out to the lone Puerto Rican in my class). To say I had a hard time adjusting is a gross understatement. Growing up in Harlem gave me somewhat of a thick skin but people expecting you to live up to the stereotypes of what it meant to be a black chick, growing up in Harlem in a single parent home was quite daunting (see why I ran to the best HBCU on the planet??? hahahaha). "No I don't know a good place to buy drugs in harlem" and "If you search my locker for a gun, I'm calling Al Sharpton!' were sentiments I actually had to utter at the age of 14. By the time senior year rolled around, I was numb. My scholarship was held over my head like a noose (I scored a perfect score on the entrance exam - my four year scholarship wasn't going anywhere as long as I didn't kill anyone), my mother had been insulted in my presence (I thought my mother was gonna have to smack a bitch but thankfully I know my mothers nonverbal cues and dragged her away immediately), and they stole my Cornsilk Cabbage Patch Kid (no I didn't walk around high school with a doll like a dork. I used her for a project on Africa, and got an A, thank you very much. ). Just when I thought nothing else could get to me, we had Senior Seminar, a weekly forum for all things pertinent to the graduating class, with the Headmistress of the entire school - the Chief Head Honcho. She was a nun, but unlike any nun I'd ever seen. She wore Gucci shoes and Prada bags.

When Senior Seminar was over, she called out for me to stay behind. My classmates looked at me like "What the hell did you do now?". Yeah I was sorta a rebel in high school but not criminal. I just questioned everything. But I had to ask myself, "Shit. What the hell did I do now?"

"Thank you for that wonderful insight on college visits. But there's something I noticed. You did this while you were speaking. You said 'ax' instead of 'ask'. And I've noticed it often when I'm around black people, whether they are doctors or captains of industry. You all say 'ax'. I don't know why that is but we must break you out of it."

I looked at her like she had 4 heads. I tried to deny this accusation of ebonic proportions as I straightened my navy crested prep school blazer but she just reiterated her point and added "I don't even think any of you realize you say it." At that moment, I had 2 choices. I could curse her out and storm out. However, it was senior year of high school and that definitely would have gotten me kicked out. And besides, while she didn't wear the habit and the squishy nun shoes, she was a nun nonetheless, and I knew cursing her out would only seal my fate and send me straight to the fiery gates of hell (we catholics are so dramatic when it comes to hell...hahahaha). Or I could suck it up, listen to this nonsense, and go about my merry way.

I chose the later. And I've always regretted it to a certain degree. It was so damn humiliating, sitting there saying "ask" over and over and over until she felt certain I wouldn't make the egregious mistake again. And there wasn't a damn thing I could do about it. There was no benefit of the doubt that maybe I stumbled over the sounds of my words (as a former speech therapist, I know that EVERYONE suffers from dysfluency in their speech at times, its the frequency and severity of that dysfluency that warrants therapeutic intervention, but I digress). She went straight for this "black dialect" that Mr. "Flush" speaks of and all the negative connotations that are embodied in that phrase.

So when I read this story, the entire incident came flooding back to me. I say to "Flush" as I wish I said to my headmistress all those years ago, "Go fuck yourself. For your information, in order for that slight of tongue to be considered part of the 'black dialect' or 'ebonics', there must be other rules used within the context of that sentence to qualify as such. You can't scream 'Hola' and present yourself as being fluent in Spanish. While controversial, this dialect you speak of has rules and patterns in which it is spoken, just like other dialects of other languages. And furthermore, how dare you go right to the race card. Why couldn't you give the benefit of the doubt of a slight slip of tongue, a case of fleeting speech dysfluency caused by words with similar sound patterns surrounding the word 'ask'? Would you have said the same if you heard a white person say what you believe to be 'ax'? Of course you wouldn't. You chose to focus on one tiny one syllable word, instead of focusing on the message of the entire speech. I don't have to call you racist. Your diatribe spoke for you. You can put your sheet back on now. Oh, and ummm Go fuck yourself".

* Whew that felt good!*

Since I've become active in my Alumnae Association over the last couple of years, I've run into the former Headmistress a few times at various events (she's also an alumna of the school). And oh how I wish I could call her out for the numerous slights against me, the color of my skin, and the lack of substance in my trust fund. But I play the game. I play it quite well actually. So well, that she wouldn't dare ASK me to participate in such nonsense again. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for "Flush". Oh, how I wish I could just flush them both down the toilet.

1 comment:

rashad said...

This is yet another don't feed the animals situation with Rush. He knows he can a rise out of some people, and he knows that certain folks will take the bait over and over, which makes those people dumb, and rush pretty effing brilliant. In fact, he's rich millions of times over because of it. BUT when your house is made of glass, you weigh 450, and you eat prescription pills and god knows what else like skittles you really should not throw race-baiting stones. Its just not becoming.