Green Room

Racist Somehow: Department of Justice Hiring Ebonics Translators for DEA Jobs

posted at 8:42 am on August 24, 2010 by

Good news for job seekers proficient in Ebonics: The DoJ wants you!

The Smoking Gun reports:

The Department of Justice is seeking to hire linguists fluent in Ebonics to help monitor, translate, and transcribe the secretly recorded conversations of subjects of narcotics investigations, according to federal records.

A maximum of nine Ebonics experts will work with the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Atlanta field division, where the linguists, after obtaining a “DEA Sensitive” security clearance, will help investigators decipher the results of “telephonic monitoring of court ordered nonconsensual intercepts, consensual listening devices, and other media”

(See one job application here, via Fox.)

Don’t yet have a command of the “language?”  That’s okay; the Atlanta DEA field office is also seeking experts in Spanish, Vietnamese, Korean, Farsi, and Jamaican patois languages.

A few tentative follow up questions: Is this simply a case of law enforcement agencies utilizing all tools necessary in a diverse urban area and an acceptable use of taxpayer dollars? Or an indirect legitimization of substandard English by categorizing it with other recognized languages?  1996 Oakland School Board controversy redux, perhaps?

Someone go find Jesse Jackson for me.

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Oh, stewardess ? I speak jive.

Jeff2161 on August 24, 2010 at 8:55 AM

Racist Left.

rbj on August 24, 2010 at 9:21 AM

Or an indirect legitimization of substandard English by categorizing it with other recognized languages?

This has nothing to do with whether the government “categorizes” or “recognizes” anything. Ebonics is neither a proper language nor an improper language. It is not a language at all. It’s just a bunch of uneducated morons who are familiar enough with each other to (sometimes) guess the approximate meanings of their mostly incoherent babbling.

The only way someone can be an “expert” in the version of Ebonics being spoken by any individual is if he happens to come from the same neighborhood. And if that’s the case, letting him in on the surveillance is the same as sending a certified letter to the suspects telling them everything you’re doing.

Otherwise, all you have is either another under-educated moron whose personal version of Ebonics comes from a different area, who’ll do nothing but add a whole new layer of incorrect associations to what was already a mess. Or you’ll have an over-educated moron who will do the exact same thing, but be a whole lot snootier about it.

logis on August 24, 2010 at 11:48 AM


MadisonConservative on August 24, 2010 at 2:54 PM

First Jive Dude: Shiiiiit, maaaaan. That honky muf’ be messin’ mah old lady… got to be runnin’ cold upside down his head, you know?
Second Jive Dude: Hey home’, I can dig it. Know ain’t gonna lay no mo’ big rap up on you, man!
First Jive Dude: I say hey, sky… subba say I wan’ see…
Second Jive Dude: Uh-huh.
First Jive Dude: …pray to J I did the same ol’ same ol’!
Second Jive Dude: Hey… knock a self a pro, Slick! That gray matter backlot perform us DOWN, I take TCB-in’, man!
First Jive Dude: Hey, you know what they say: see a broad to get dat booty yak ’em…
First Jive Dude, Second Jive Dude: …leg ‘er down a smack ’em yak ’em!
First Jive Dude: COL’ got to be! Y’know? Shiiiiit.

Sefton on August 24, 2010 at 4:11 PM

Education and/or Experience:
Degree or Graduate Education: – the appropriate foreign language from an English-speaking college or university, specialized experience: in translating, interpreting, or other work requiring the use of English or a combination of work (that required English and Ebonics) and training at the Defense Language Institute, Foreign Service Institute, or comparable training.

Certificates, Licenses, Registrations:
A proficiency rating of 3 or above in speaking, listening, reading, writing, and congruity judgment in Ebonics and a proficiency rating of 3 or above in speaking, listening, reading, writing, and congruity judgment in English is required.

Well, as long as the government is diligent in ensuring these minimum qualifications are met.

malclave on August 24, 2010 at 9:54 PM

logis on August 24, 2010 at 11:48 AM
malclave on August 24, 2010 at 9:54 PM

I just saw that your comments were inexplicably held as spam/moderation. Very sorry about that…fixed! :)

Bee on August 25, 2010 at 12:00 PM

Or an indirect legitimization of substandard English by categorizing it with other recognized languages?

There is no such thing as standard English from a lingustic standpoint. Languages change over time. What’s regarded as standard today is the product of people speaking a “sub-standard” manner in yesteryears.

Is Black English, or African-American Vernacular English, a real language? I would say yes, as there are definitely distinct morphological and syntactical rules that native-speakers consistently observe. A “brother” knows immediately whether a person he’s speaking with is from his community or not. If Black English were simply bad English, then blacks would mistaken foreigners speaking broken English as one of their own. This is clearly not the case.

The distinction between “language” and “dialect” is entirely a socio-political construct. Absent all other variants of spoken English, an outside observer would certainly see Black English as a real language.

year_of_the_dingo on August 25, 2010 at 6:15 PM