It’s no surprise in today’s current climate regarding media, there are various subcultures and main stem terminology (or slang) that have been incorporated into our everyday vocabulary. Despite the evolution of slang, the issue lies with the person or entity creating this link and whether or not it belongs to them. There remains the question of whether there should be limits on BVE or whether it should be exclusive to a particular group. Let’s find out.
What are BVE and AAVE?
BVE stands for Black Vernacular English and AAVE stands for African-American vernacular English. Essentially, it is a dialect of the English language that is spoken by predominantly African Americans. It consists of words, terms, and phrases popularized by the black community that instills a sense of familiarity and comfort. It can also be referred to as Ebonics.
How it’s used throughout Pop Culture?
Black Vernacular English (BVE) or African-American Vernacular English (AAVE) is where most of our modern-day slang comes from. Some of these popular phrases and words include “sis”, “lit”, and “turnt” just to name a few.
When it comes to slang, especially deriving from the specific communities (in this case, the African-American community) have gained popularity. The true meaning of the word tends to become suppressed, stripping context from its original meeting. That being said, should people who are not members of the black community be able to use these terms?
Depending on the word, how it’s pronounced, and the context it’s being used in, there can be no harm. For example in the media, BVE can be used as a marketing tactic that companies will display to keep up with the younger generations. This is especially prevalent on Twitter because it causes a reaction and appeal. This is when it can potentially cause harm because it can be seen as appropriation but on the flip side not as much because the intent could have been there, just poorly executed.
Here are some more common BVE and AAVE words and phrases:
- “Yasss queen”
- “hella, “
- “straight up,
- “on fleek,”
BVE is extremely common in media appearing through the use of GIFs and memes. The problem is, these GIFs often represent a stereotypical black woman being bold or excessively lavish. Non-black people then use these images to express their words and feelings but the reality is, it only enforces the same narratives and stereotypes we’ve been trying to rid ourselves of for centuries.
But Is it Cultural appropriation if I’m not black?
BVE is often criticized for sounding “ghetto” or like improper English. It’s been used for generations and can commonly be defined as code-switching. This is when two or more languages or dialects are alternated throughout an exchange of conversation. The reason behind code-switching is that inside of a professional setting, it is undesirable. Although many companies have policies and non-discriminatory acts, black people may feel reluctant to speak more “loosely”. Non-black people using BVE can 100% feed into the narrative of culture appropriation. This is why everyone should be more conscious of what they say, how they say it, and the extent to which they share things. It can become extremely easy for something to be misconstrued or in other words appropriated.
This isn’t to say you can’t use slang or any of these terms if you are a non-black person. The goal is to, ultimately, be more conscious and aware.