My Turn, Your Turn: Black English, learning slang

By Gary McNair - bio|email

One of the stories our news department did this week really got my attention. It's about a UNCW professor who is teaches a course on the profession of teaching.  As part of this, he thinks tomorrow's teachers are well served by learning modern slang language.  He calls this section of the course "Black English" - and gives his students the "street meaning" of words like phat, whip, chump and whack.  

UNCW Professor teaches what he calls "Black English"

I really want to give this professor the benefit of the doubt and I assume his heart is in the right place.  But beyond that there is something about this course that bothers me. It just seems like a waste of time.  Doesn't language, especially street language always change and evolve into other meanings?

I remember a time when bad meant good. Heck, back in my day dope was a word we used for the class screw-up.  It then became slang for marijuana, and now - if I understand it – dope, like bad used to, means good too.

Words change from generation to generation. And kids really don't want their teachers to understand anyway.  It's like code – once the adults figure it out they'll be sure to change it.  I just don't see how this professor is going to keep up with it all, let alone impart it on a timely basis to the teachers working with our kids in today's classrooms.

Maybe we should just "peace out" on this subject.

That's my turn.  Now it's your turn.  To comment on this segment, or anything else, email me at

Emailed comments from viewers:

It seems to me, who ever is behind this is trying to separate the races, when we are being taught to try to come together as one nation.  We have Black History, Black College Black College Fund, NAACP, Hiring based on race, certain words cannot be used in public, When will we have enough.  We have a black man in the highest office in the free world.


why should our teachers have to learn this to talk to our kids when our kids should be able to understand english that is what we are learn from the start our teachers have it hard enough the parents of our kids need to teach our kids how to talk right forget this bs talk let our teachers teach in english and our kids speak english bs talk will not get them a job!


Once again you were dead on with your commentary.  I totally agree with your comments.

I hope "dead on" still means what I want it to mean.


As a person of color I take offense to the term. I do not use slang nor is it used in my home. I wonder if the professor is qualified to teach the course, if you were to walk into any high school in Wilmington and talk to the children I am sure he will find it is not just black (African American ) children using slang.  This would apply to not only Wilmington but any city.  The slang would vary from culture to culture as well as from location to location, and it would change .


I disagree with the Professor's comment and it really disturbed me. Black English is not our language and should not be encouraged.  That's why you are called teachers, to teach them the correct way.  It does not contribute to the success of their future, so why would you even consider allowing the children to continue something that won't help them?

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