Recently, CNN reported recently that the DEA, the Drug Enforcement Agency is looking to hire ebonics translators. My only thought was REALLY? I'm not even sure how that would work. Is ebonics even a consistent language? If I were asked, I would definitely describe it as street slang, which constantly changes and adapts with the times.
Reportedly, the DEA is looking to hire ebonics translators because they feel there is a need due to people trying to use ebonics to evade detection, while trafficking in drugs. The DEA recognizes that it's spoken all the time, like Spanish and Vietnamese, but is becoming more prevalent in drug dealers trying to avoid detection.
I'm not sure that a translator's translation could hold up in court. As of yet, I don't know that there is an ebonics dictionary, and that ebonics doesn't vary from city to city. Is ebonics the same in New York as it is in Los Angeles? Goodness know the English language isn't the same in Boston as it is in SoCal or Austrailia or South Africa for that matter. Is there a reliable source on the nuances and differences of ebonics throughout the world?
The term "Ebonics" -- a blend of "ebony" and "phonics" -- became popular in 1996, when the Oakland California School District proposed using it in teaching English. When the school board came under fire for this decision, it voted to alter the plan, which then recognized Ebonics as a distinct language. Today it is most commonly referred to as "urban language" or "street language" which has crossed over geographic, racial and ethnic backgrounds."
But while the language may be getting more recognition, I'm of the opinion that "translating" it in court could prove troublesome and lead to confusion. As CNN points out, there was controversy during the Black Panther trials in the 1970s, when there was debate over whether the saying, "off the pigs," was an actual threat to kill police officers or more metaphorical. I feel like using ebonics translators hired by the DEA could lead defense teams getting their own ebonics "experts" and suddenly the cost of drug trials goes up and up.