by A. Raheem Ballard
Since the beginning of time, language has allowed people of all ethnicities to communicate, to be heard, and to be felt. Through the exchange of words, language has also allowed people to persuade others, and to be persuaded.
For example, the ery speeches of Adolf Hitler convinced a nation of people that blonde hair and blue eyes was a sign of ethnic superiority. Then, there was the congregation of Jim Jones, which was tragically misled from America to Africa, only to commit mass suicide. These horri c acts were not only carried out with bad intentions, but with the purpose of altering history. These events were accomplished through the power of a man’s words
On the other hand, just as language and words can be used to rally people towards corruption and injustice, they can equally be used to call people towards positivity and progress. What would the Civil Rights movement have been like without Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech? Or Malcolm-X’s “Ballot or the Bullet” speech that changed the way minorities viewed the political process. Not to mention the many speeches given by Cesar Chavez that strengthened a labor movement and demanded economic equality and change. Again, these examples illustrate not only the power of men, but the power of their words.
When I look back at my childhood and early adolescence, it’s more than obvious that I didn’t appreciate the impact of my words. I cussed like a drunken sailor and the “N” word was constantly abused. I didn’t care who heard me or what others thought. But as the years past and the isolation continued, I began to read more. My thoughts became absorbed with the views of many prominent gures like Marcus Garvey, Frantz Fanon, and W.E.B Du Bois. This forever changed my understanding of language and words. I slowly realized that everything I uttered was not only a re ection of my ignorance, but my intelligence.
Don’t get me wrong, I love how language has evolved into language, even Ebonics. It gives us another way to express ourselves, which is unique only to those who are able to use and understand it. But with this ability to communicate on different levels, we have to be ever mindful that our words still pierce like swords, and sway the hearts and minds of all who hear them. In closing, think of language and words as building blocks. You can leave a long lasting legacy for better or for worse depending on what you say and how you say it. If words and actions re ect who we really are, it’s time to start thinking about who we really want to be.