The widow of the slain Green Berets soldier, LaDavid Johnson (there, I did better than Trump) gave an example of deep Black English when she uttered twice the possessive construction “my husband name”. For those who know only the popular phrases “baby daddy” and “baby mama”, the possessive structure on noun + noun, found in many languages around the world, incl. Arabic (?), is a strong indicator of deep dialect.
I won’t politicize the grammar the way Trump politicized the death of this solder, but we must consider who we are taking in to this so-called volunteer army as we hollow out the working class and more and more, the middle class. Kids who can’t get into college and cannot find work often come from marginalized populations. Period.
The widow, Myeshia Johnson, emphasized that Trump appeared to now know her husband’s name and did not use it. If you have been around Black people, you’ve heard the complaint, “She called me out of my name.” That means addressing someone by something other than their given name. When I first came into the Black community I was struck by how often people were addressed by the full form of their name, Roderick instead of Rod, Donald instead of Don, Gerald instead of Jerry; by no means a universal practice but common enough for me to notice it. My speculation is that it derives from the practice under slavery of slave holders naming slaves as depicted in Roots with its brutal imposition via the whip of the name Toby onto Kunta Kinte. Slave holders, fancying themselves learned gentlemen, gave slaves a Classical name, thus Caledonia, Sempronia, and my wife’s name, Letha (Greek nymph of forgetfulness, which I never let her “forget”). All the Lethas we’ve met have been of Southern heritage and mostly, but not all, Black.
So I am thinking that Myeshia Johnson recalls for us who exactly is volunteering for this army. In no way do I forget the many children of well-established families who sign up to serve, but I would like to see the regional and income origins of our soldiers. My son’s experience in the 82nd Airborne revealed to him the depth of poverty and ignorance many of our fellow citizens live in and may drive them to the services in order to better themselves. The service is a great thing, but it should be truly voluntary and evenly distributed across social groups.