Essay Oppresive Force

964 Words4 Pages
“Oppressive Forces”
Amy Tan’s “Mother Tongue” and James Baldwin’s “If Black English Isn’t a Language, Then Tell Me, What Is?” discusses the power in language and how it is defined as a tool for communication but is used to shape people’s perception of others. Both Tan and Baldwin state that language is used as an oppressive force that doesn’t properly acknowledge minorities and the lack of proficiency in “standard” English doesn’t allow them to participate with society equally.
Within Baldwin’s essay he makes it clear that the black community is not accepted because of the language in which they speak. It isn’t the fault of the language but the role in which society refuses to acknowledge their history. He states, “It is not the black
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Likewise in Tan’s essay she explains how she herself unfairly treated her mother because of the way she spoke. She remorsefully admits that at a certain point in her life she viewed her mother differently because of her “broken” English. She states, “I believed that her English reflected the quality of what she had to say.” (pg 70) This shows how even a daughter’s perception may be altered because her mother does not speak the language Tan was taught throughout American schools as being acceptable and “normal”. For example, when going to visit a doctor or hospital there are numerous doctors with various different backgrounds. When speaking to a doctor of American decent he or she is taken more seriously and viewed as a smart and distinguished individual. When a majority of people speak to a doctor with a native tongue, these doctors are viewed as less desirable and there abilities discredited. This scenario is also true reversed. TransPerfect Translations' (2003) performed a study on language barriers within doctor and patient relationships. Their study shows “that 47% of Spanish speaking patients have described a bad experience because of a language barrier and 9% had trouble determining the meaning of before, with, or after their meals.” (TransPerfect Translations’, 2003) This proves how doctors do not take the nessasary steps in making sure every patient is treated equally and clearly understands what they need to do before
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