grammar is supremacy

i have never read this post (still) but it’s been cited enough times for me to know that this is many people’s source for this idea. because of how ideas flow around the internet, i’m not sure how much my thinking about this topic has been influenced by people who have read it, but what follows are my own scattered thoughts.

“proper grammar” is supremacy. it excludes people and delegitimizes certain people’s knowledge because “they don’t convey it in the right way.” saying someone’s knowledge isn’t legit because they don’t know how to spell properly is oppressive.

the “saying” is rarely explicit. sometimes someone will say “oh, i don’t ever believe what that person says because they don’t know how to spell.” more often, there is an implicit disregard for people who don’t speak “proper english” (think rap). but even more often than either of those is the implicit and unearned extreme regard given to people with british accents. regardless of actual intelligence, we culturally assume that people with british accents who speak “proper english” are brilliant. this happens constantly and is explicit as fuck. it’s actually crazy.

i have visceral, personal experience of this. throughout my entire childhood i was told i “spoke so well.” when white people said it they meant “you sound so educated”. when people of color said it they meant “you sound so white.” these are two sides of the same coin. and they’re linked because the american public education system is racist and based on housing taxes. this means schools in poor neighborhoods get less funding and therefore have worse outcomes on many things, one of them being english and grammar.

imo, language is about communication and if someone can get their message across, the goal was accomplished. those tests about people being able to read words that are scrambled is proof of that if nothing else is. of course, if someone isn’t communicating effectively, fine. you can’t simply do away with all spelling and syntactical structures because at a certain point, language does fall apart. but as long as the meaning is conveyed, all these rules about why not to end a sentence with a preposition and dangling participles is just exclusionary. they become a class marker and serve to further divide people (to the benefit of the wealthy and the detriment of the poor).

i’ll be honest and confess that (because of my upbringing) i totally used to be on the grammar police squad. getting to know folks who have been in prisons for a long time has helped break this internalized oppression out of me. get yourself a prison pen pal or read a prison newspaper (black and pink has a great one). you’ll be surprised at how much you can understand without “proper grammar.”

note: this is another reason why i don’t spellcheck or grammar edit my posts. given that these are all quick rough draft posts (mostly to share my thoguhts with friends), the time tradeoff isn’t worth it. if i ever wanted to get published or write in somewhere with the some real visibility, i’d edit for sure.

writing spell-check, link-finding, & formatting
16:06 7:00