fight for justice and fairness

Jeff Sessions - Keeper of the Flame by Donkey Hotey

I have trouble listening to the news, especially when great nonsense is spoken in near perfect Suthun English.

I taught in a secondary modern school in the London in 1965-66 after which I returned to work on my doctorate at the University of Alabama and teach undergraduates. An honors student from one of those classes is coming to visit this afternoon, the first time we have seen each other in 50 years!

Accustomed to speaking with a British accent, I used chose the Oxbridgeon version for the first session of a class until the very end. At that point, I went to the chalk board and, with my back turned, said in my native speech: “Yo-uh assignmeant fo-uh tomorrow is to re-ad ……” When I finished writing the specifics, I turned to find a room of faces in various states of shock. Many thought I intended to insult them.

Silently I turned my back to them again and wrote on the board, “Which is my native way of speaking? Raise your hands.” I pointed to the word ‘British’ then to the word ‘Suthun.’

No one in the room guessed the right answer. I told them that I was from Anniston, Alabama. One said, “But Mistah Crew, we figured that anyone who could speak that purty would nevah be from heah.”

We did several followup exercises to document how the language the colonizer still privileged people 190 years after the American Revolution. It still does in 2017, 241 years after the Revolution, as if we had not won it.

Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, III, 70, is the same age as my honors student (also an attorney) who will visit today. Sessions might have had one of my classes in the luck of the draw, but he he attended Huntingdon College in Montgomery for his undergraduate education. He entered law school in Tuscaloosa a year before I left for England again, but neither of us ever met as best I can recollect.

Sessions and I were brought up to speak English undefiled. Neither of us has an accent the way Yankees do. We were also taught to avoid the harsh and flat speech of hard working people we ungraciously called “red-necks.”

But alas, it now takes a swig of bourbon or a spoon of grits to recover my heritage, so long have I lived in foreign parts.

All of this skirts the most important point: no one is without a dialect, and no dialect has a monopoly on ideas or good sense or morality or justice or creativity or …..

And even more important, if you want Sessions to be undone, your best allies are Suthunahs who rebuke him in his own language — not Suthunahs in exile like me, but dissenters who have stayed down home to fight for justice and fairness, dissenters who don’t even need a sip of bourbon or a spoon of grits to tell it like it is. If you don’t know any of those, do your homework lest prejudice distort your good sense.

Image: Jeff Sessions - Keeper of the Flame by Donkey Hotey (flickr, CC).

Louie Crew Clay

Louie Crew Clay,  81, is an Anniston, Alabama native and Professor Emeritus at Rutgers. He lives in East Orange, NJ, with Ernest Clay, his husband for 44 years. He holds an M.A. from Auburn University, a Ph.D. from the University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa), and honorary doctorates from three seminaries of the Episcopal Church. He is the founder of Integrity, an international organization of lgbt Episcopalians/Anglicans. Editors have published 2,750+ of Louie Crew Clay's poems and essays — including Letters from Samaria: The Prose & Poetry of Louie Crew Clay, NYC: Church Publishing, Inc., November 2015 and  Our Station Forgot to Give the Evening News,  Poetry Superhighway. An eBook in the press' annual 'The Great Poetry E-Book Free-For-All,' online from December 1, 2016. You can follow his work at See also The University of Michigan collects Clay’s papers.

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