Poet Taylor Steele has expressed why culturally appropriating black slang is unacceptable, and what happens when “others” benefit from hijacking terms invented by black people.
At the 2016 Women of the World Poetry Slam in Brooklyn, New York, Steele took on the controversial topic in a performance of her poem “AAVE” (which stands for “African-American Vernacular English”).
In the video clip below, Steele masterfully deconstructs “the way slang words that were invented by black people have been coopted by white people — at the expense of black people,” per Huff Post. The brilliant poem highlights the history and the cultural significance that’s often attached to the way black people engage and speak to one another.
“Tiffany takes a selfie, middle finger salute. Captions: ‘Ghetto thug bitch in the building,’” Steele recited. “Roger fist bumps his good pal mark with an old-fashioned, ‘Later, nigga.’”
“Amanda says ‘it’s lit,’ and a million hands snap in Z formation,” Steele said. “I say ‘it’s lit,’ and I find myself burning at the stake.”
“Blonde Beckie says “bae” and the room becomes a pep rally, a human wave of “Yaaass,” Steele recites.
Author Clare Forrister penned an op-ed piece for The Guardian about the dangers of cultural appropriation, in which she notes: “Using cultural practices and items that you can’t claim as your own is impossible to avoid in such a connected world, so instead, do it respectfully and with an understanding of that culture and know when not to do it.”
She also said that “sharing experiences with people who are different from you only helps when you’re actually connected to those people.” However, Steele believes the seemingly “harmless” use of black phrases by white people only reinforces the double standards that black folks endure daily.
Check out Steele’s poem below, and let us know your opinion about the topic.