“Ethnic Identity is twin skin to linguistic identity – I am my language. Until I can take pride in my language, I cannot take pride in myself” - Gloria Anzaldua
“A language which they can connect their identity to, one capable of communicating the realities and values true to themselves – a language, with terms that are neither espanol ni ingles, but both” - Gloria Anzaldua
“Who is to say that robbing a people of its language is less violent than war?”
- Ray Gwyn Smith
Reflections on “talking like a white girl”
So I’m trying to humanize myself and work on feeling more whole. Sometimes I hate the way I talk. I’m more accutely aware of it now when I hear how different I sound than my students. It makes me sad that all throughout high school I refused to speak black vernacular or working class english. Why? A mixture of power, privilege, violence, and protection.
My filipino parents taught their children english in the interests of trying to protect us in a society where fluency in academic and middle class english ensure some access to power. It was also because they began internalizing colonial oppression, and held pride that their children knew academic and middle class english and were thus “good” kids or “good” citizens.
So I gained some access to power through the fluency in these languages. How else did I end up in grad school now? But what did I lose? I was violently stripped of a large part of my identity and ties to my filipino ancestry. So I lost Tagalog, Chabacano, Spanish, Kapampangan, and working class english. I internalized a lotta self hate, hating my filipino roots and hating my working class roots living in Paradise Hills. I didn’t wanna speak tagalog and I didn’t wanna learn the language of my hood. In that, I lost connections to my community.
So knowing this, what do I do now?
1. I started speaking to my mom and pop in tagalog on the phone. I’m getting better. I’m not sure how I’m going to start speaking to my Filipino American friends in Taglish or Tagalog. Still workin on it.
2. Working class english/black vernacular: this one’s tough. I don’t want my students or other working class folks to see me as “trying to be down” or “faking the funk.” I know I escaped a lot of oppression in a lot of ways through “selling out” or “internalizing oppression and self-hate.” But in trying to heal, I want to be able to communicate and show respect for the languages that have survived and help our community resist to the cutting of our tongues and the forced learning of academic english and middle class english. I wanna build. I wanna go home. I dont care if it sounds weird. I’m down and I want to build with my working class/black and brown folks. One way is through language.
3. Spanish: My grand parents spoke spanish. It is a language of one of my colonizers, but I know I can build with many other brown folks who I share similar oppressions with. Therefore, I wanna learn and speak this.
Ultimately I’m trying to decolonize myself in one way through language. I want to learn the different languages of resistance. The languages that have survived, and that my people Pin@ys, woc, poc’s, queer, transgender, and nongender conforming folks, and any other marginalized groups have used to remain connected and communicate with each other. In that I hope I will be accepted and not looked at as “trying to be down” or inauthentic. In learning different codes to communicate, I hope I can decolonize myself and my community, through learning to speak and build with all marginalized folks. I hope i can come back home and my folks will accept me.