When filling out job applications lately, I’ve been tempted to add my fluency in African American Vernacular English under the lists of languages I speak. Although I know that job employers would overlook the importance of AAVE, I cannot help but notice the increase in companies attempting to use the language when trying to appeal to a certain audience.
AAVE, formerly known as Black English Vernacular and Ebonics, is regarded as a language with distinct aspects of pronunciation and vocabulary amongst sociolinguists. Although this language is commonly heard among black communities, it is commonly used by companies and organizations online when they want to have a black voice.
The Popeyes chicken sandwich epidemic caused many companies to rush online in order to remind their customers that they, too, have menu items that should be selling out, and ultimately caused a corporate Twitter war. Some of the clapbacks from the online debacle include Popeyes tweeting, “….y’all good” to Chick-Fil-A, “Cause y’all looking thirsty” to Wendy’s, and Shake Shack putting their two-cents in with a, “If you’re looking for a chicken sandwich (without the beef)” comment.
Although one might argue that AAVE could be misinterpreted as just Southern Slang, it is obvious what these companies strive to go viral from. It is just the same as caucasian boutiques selling shirts that read “Bye Felecia” with Instagram captions that attempt to recreate AAVE.
If fluency in AAVE was seen as acceptable by corporate America, then these companies could easily hire black marketing gurus that would authenticate these ridiculous attempts at having a black voice.
It is a known fact that “Black Twitter” can make or break any product, song, company, phrase, etc. within the matter of one day. A simple scroll through the Black Twitter community shows thousands of viral accounts that are the face of boosting these products. So not only have these accounts mastered the art of social media marketing, but they have done so by appealing to a specific audience. Remember a few summers ago when there was nowhere to find those Capriccio Sangria bottles because of the rave reviews on Facebook by- you guessed it- black people? Would a company hire a marketing applicant based solely on their media knowledge and AAVE fluency?
I highly doubt it.
Corporate america has already realized that appealing to the African American community via social media is a great marketing strategy, but hopefully they will soon realize that filling their media marketing positions with fluent AAVE speakers would have a greater return on their investment.