Wednesday, February 25, 2009

My pinky's valued over $300,000...

So the topic of today's post is about "talking black" vs. "talking white." Now, I have to be honest and say I know exactly what people mean when they say someone "sounds black." We like to get all indignant when people say stuff like that, like when Prince Harry said something recently to a black comedian. But what exactly are we getting upset about?

I want to take a detour here and share the first time someone decided to call out how I spoke differently. And newsflash: it wasn't a white person, it was some black kids from my grandma's neighborhood. I was about six or seven and visiting my grandmother in Cleveland. My grandmother lived in a predominantly black neighborhood, and I was outside with some of the neighborhood kids. The conversation went something like this:

Them: Are you here visiting your grandmother?
Me: Yes.
Them: Is (insert myblackfriend's mom's name here) your mom?
Me: Yes.
Them: (getting somewhat exapserated) Don't you know how to say, "Yeah?"

::wait for it::

Me: Yes.

Now, I don't actually remember these kids explicitly saying, "You sound white," but that was certainly the implied message. Because, I didn't use more informal language, something was weird or different about me--and they needed to make me aware of that. Now I know they were just kids, but the fact of the matter is even today in 2009, a black adult can tell another black adult that they sound white, and the "white sounding" black adult is the one that is supposed to feel bad.

Let me shift gears a little bit more. I'm going to link to a video and say that it is NSFW and has what some people might consider offensive language.

[Edited 4/2017: Chris deleted his youtube channel, so here is the same video that someone else reposted. Nothing you post on the internet goes away.]

So this guy is clearly white, and he "sounds black." There are lots of other white people in the world who talk like this guy, too. How do we explain this? Maybe because it's not your skin color that determines the way that you speak.

I also want to make it clear that I am not saying one way of talking is inherently better than the other way. Some people might argue that we should all talk the "white way" and those are the same people that think everyone in the world should speak English. That's boring. It might be a little harder to understand someone who speaks differently than you, but that's your opportunity to turn your ears on and work your listening skills. You might also learn some new words. And all people, need to lay off the idea that people who's skin is a certain color need to speak a certain way--because that's just wack.

As always, I welcome your comments.


  1. people like to feel safe in an uncertain world by holding on to their limited orientational catagories.

  2. Diction and word choice are very interesting things. My assistant and the assistant who sits next to her asked me the other day, "Did you grow up in the 'hood?"

    I laughed and asked them why they thought this, and they said it was because I speak like a "normal" person. They assumed that, because of my educational pedigree, I'd be throwing around fancy SAT words, rather than shooting the shit about TV.

    Ironically, rather than being offended by the question, I was kinda jazzed by it. They actually meant it as a compliment. Heh.

  3. Anonymous12:44 PM

    what does your title mean? i want to be black too D: