[“Guitar Shop Sign,” Somerville, MA]
As a writer—and clumsy typist—I generally double-check that my electronic communications are grammatically correct and not misspelled before clicking “Send ” or “Post.” Especially when being judged—like querying a potential literary agent. But lately on Facebook I’m noticing a trend among some of my FB friends (lovely and intelligent people, of course) who natter on and on about who’s and whose as if getting these words mixed up were A Very Big Deal!
Sure: if you’re submitting your resume and cover letter or writing for publication/public scrutiny, you don’t want to look inept or careless or, God forbid, stupid. Sure, in those situations, spelling and grammar count. They matter. But when you’re on the T, on deadline, texting, exhausted, trying to get an email off while making dinner, the kids yelling in the next room? Not so much. Moderately.
Sometimes when I read another FB poster waxing wroth re their and there and they’re I get uncomfortable. Because, in this age of texting, in this time when messin’ with spellin’ especially around names (Mo’ Nique, B2K, Curren$y), is so much a part of who we are, now, sometimes I think what I’m actually witnessing is White Entrenchment.
Or, as Tema Okum would put it: “White Supremacy Culture: Specifically: “Worship of the Written Word.”
Here’s a relevant excerpt from her handout (obviously developed for organizations and agencies to think about ):
- if it’s not in a memo, it doesn’t exist
- the organization does not take into account or value other ways in which information gets shared
- those with strong documentation and writing skills are more highly valued, even in organizations where ability to relate to others is key to the mission.
She goes on to suggest these antidotes:
- Take the time to analyze how people inside and outside the organization get and share information; figure out which things need to be written down and come up with alternative ways to document what is happening; work to recognize the contributions and skills that every person brings to the organization (for example, the ability to build relationships with those who are important to the organization’s mission); make sure anything written can be clearly understood (avoid academic language, ‘buzz’ words, etc.)
Let me VERY clear: My (lefty, Quaker, most of them, ethical, righteous) friends would be horrified to think of themselves as “white supremacists.” Of course!
I’m not saying they are. Here’s what I’m saying: if we really believe in diversity, in equality, in multiculturalism; if we truly believe we can and ought to do a better job of sharing resources and opportunities than those currently in power; if the year 2042 doesn’t make us break out into a cold sweat, then we need to stop sweating the small stuff.
Yeah, there is enormous ignorance out there right now. But instead of judging those who don’t differentiate between its and it’s, let’s remember King’s “content of their character.”
Beginning with our own.