1101-391 Language and Identity.

Brad Griffith


Prof. Carrie Hall

English Paper Hw Final Draft

                                                       Lies:Truth is we all wild out

    Slang has always been a big part of my vocabulary. I use it almost everyday and say it to almost everyone. Everyone but my parents because they’ll have such a hard time understanding me, then ask a million questions on what it means, why I’m using it and who really has time for all of that. I specifically remember saying “facts” to my dad after agreeing with him on something. He couldn’t understand why I would use that word if I was agreeing with him because he thought I meant “where are the facts?” like I questioned what he was saying. After an hour of trying to explain the slang he ended the conversation before we both exploded of exhaustion. Even though my parents don’t understand my slang there’s one word they’ll never forget.

   Wilding. According to The New York Times the word was officially recognized in 1989 from a connection to The Central Park Jogger Case. A women was raped by a man named Matias Reyes but at the time 5 males black and hispanic were convicted of the crime. I just recently heard about this and was surprised to know one of my favorite slang words “wilding”  originated from a rape case. Before I heard about this the word generally meant a group of people acting up or doing something I thought was funny enough to make fun of. Now that I know that this word comes from a background of discrimination I tend to use it more cautiously. However, there’s still a few questions that just won’t stop annoying me. How come the word was defined as “the activity by gang of youths of going on a protracted and violent rampage in a public place, attacking people at random” and not just someone or a group of people on a rampage? How come gang had to be involved specifically? How come attacking people at random was added?

   If you’re unfamiliar with the case I’m referring to look up The Central Park Jogger Case. A 40 million dollar settlement had to be given to the five black and hispanic men that were wrongfully accused but when it first happened law enforcement had no clue who did it. All the government “knew” was that black and hispanic people must’ve done it because that’s the kind of things we do in their eyes. Racist people or people who will entertain racist ideals all believe colored people are more likely to commit a crime than a white person. Therefore, it must make sense when the suspects are black and latino. Often times when you’re reading something or listening you tend not to listen to every single word but in terms of the definition for wilding, close examination is necessary. For instance, when the mayor used “gang” it can be inferred that he was just using it generally but I believe he was specifically referring to black or hispanic people. Due to a statistic on race/ethnicity demographic from a 1996 National Youth Gang Survey, hispanic gangs are at 44%, african american gangs are at 35% but white gangs are at 14%. This proves that back in the 1990’s people were more likely to assume that if you mentioned a gang you were talking about black and hispanic people. How come “a gang attacking people at random” was used to define “wilding” in reference to the Central Jogger case if they didn’t know who did the crime?  

   Like I said before, slang has always been a big part of my vocabulary but not because I enjoy it that much. Slang keeps me connected to my roots. People usually assume negatively about others(colored people) who use slang and believe because they speak this way they must be slow or dumb. Although, I don’t care what people assume of me. In a world where traditions and standards are often forgotten I’d rather stay in touch with my people and our culture. Wilding, for example was defined from a narrow-minded view of colored people but I feel more connected to the word than anyone due to my past experiences growing up. In middle school, I had a teacher that always spoke in such a harsh tone it scared you into your seat. One day she came in the class with the meanest mug you’ve ever seen and basically yelled at us to hand in the paper that was due. Unfortunately, I’d written the paper informally using a bit of slang and when I gave it in she explained in detail in front of the entire class how writing in slang makes me look stupid. For a while after that I didn’t use any slang at all because I didn’t want to seem like a walking stereotype, although my cousin who now is in the medical field told me “you should never be afraid to express yourself even if others don’t agree because most of the time it’s them who’s actually wilding”. Hearing those words changed me, not because it made me feel better but the way he said it sounded sophisticated even though he used slang. “Wilding”. He made me realize that the only ones who are dumb are the people that assume black people must be slow because we use slang a-lot. What I didn’t realize before was that slang is what keeps us together, the usage and the way people discredit us for using it all keep my people aware of the common enemy. The haters.

   Everyone has their own language in a sense. Whether it’s informal, spanish or just not speaking at all; we all choose to communicate in our most comfortable way possible. The usage of words show little to what you know but how you choose to express these words show what kind of person you are. I like saying words like wilding and facts because they allow to express my background. Growing up in a racist world where people judge you just by looking at you, it’s hard to feel safe sometimes but when I use the term wilding it makes me feel in control of myself. Back when we didn’t have any control at all and were forced to do whatever someone else told us, using slang takes back the power of control and forces people to hear what they once didn’t have to. Our freedom of expression.

Works Cited

Curry, G. David, et al. “Race/Ethnicity.” Survey Results: Gang Member Demographics, Race/Ethnicity, 1996, www.ojjdp.gov/pubs/96natyouthgangsrvy/surv_6c.html.

Schott, Ben. “Wilding.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 8 Apr. 2010, schott.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/04/08/wilding/.

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