From the Archive: Unlearning Linguistic Trauma

From left to right, Walt Wolfram, the executive producer of Talking Black in America, then-Assistant Professor Tosha Sampson-Choma, graduate student Chelsea Osademe (MA ’19), and KU Ph.D. student Charlesia McKinney (BA ’13) discuss the film after a showing at Kansas State University on February 26, 2018

 Since our blog debuted in 2017, we have published 300+ posts.  While some of you may have been with us from the start (thank you, loyal readers!), others may have joined us more recently.

As a new feature, we’ll be highlighting periodically some of the posts that have garnered a lot of views or that address topics of continuing interest in the current moment — posts that you may have missed or that you might want to revisit.

We’re starting with one of our most popular posts since its initial publication in 2018: “Unlearning Linguistic Trauma: Identifying Broken Perceptions in the Composition Classroom” by Charlesia McKinney (BA ’13).

Since writing the post, Charlesia has completed a Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Composition at the University of Kansas in 2022 and now serves as an assistant professor of English at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Charlesia’s original post begins:

One Sunday after church, my Aunt Peach was wearing a new dress and my mama said, “Peach! Girl, that dress is bad!” My eyes widened as I squeezed her hand and said, “Mama!” I was about six years old and quickly learned that “bad,” in certain contexts, can take on the opposite meaning to operate as a compliment. The film Talking Black in America, which was shown at Kansas State on February 26, affirmed many of my linguistic experiences as the film portrayed everyday scenarios as meaningful and deliberate rather than random and purposeless; similarly,  my anecdote disrupts the myth that Black English* is innate to all Black people. Just as I learned diverse variations of Black English from various Black communities, I learned that those experiences were no longer the norm within predominantly white academic spheres, which has meant internalizing feelings of incompetence since the third grade.

Read more at Unlearning Linguistic Trauma: Identifying Broken Perceptions in the Composition Classroom — and our thanks to Charlesia for this contribution which continues to have resonance and find readers in 2022.

Karin Westman, Department Head


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