Authenticity in the academy: The misinterpretation of Black Women’s communication in academic White spaces

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Virginia Tech

Language is the dominant standard through which communication occurs. It provides us with resources to manipulate concepts and solve problems. The ways in which we use our language to communicate varies depending on culture, identity, environment, and experiences. Specific groups such as Black women are habitually judged for their communication skills and stereotyped as “angry”, “loud”, “aggressive” and “deviant”. Cultural differences and power relations such as sexism, patriarchy, and racism among individuals and institutions produce these stereotypical perspectives toward Black women particularly in White spaces. How Black women communicate in predominantly White spaces often relates to their use of African American Vernacular English (AAVE), which contains a rich depository of language factors by which the African American community expresses a cultural self. These factors are evident in the development of internal components of the language’s “sounds, words, rhythm, sentential structures, and their expressions” (Zeigler 2001, p. 70). Participants will have the opportunity to discuss their personal experiences and the ways in which they combat these microaggressions and stereotypes.