Monday, June 26, 2006


Talking like a White Person

As a teen advocate it burns me up when I hear teenagers say that they use poor grammar and speak using Ebonics because they do not want to be accused of "acting and sounding white". I do know that too many of our children are falling into this silly situation. I do understand on one hand because I was young once and I won't lie and pretend that I didn't get caught up in that too as a teen. When you are young, it is important to be accepted and to be seen as "cool, fire, bad or whatever they call it today and not that dreaded word- nerd.

I was always accused of talking like a white person. So at the age of 13 I relaxed my usage of speaking correctly. Heck even adults teased me. So I did what they felt comfortable with, I spoke like some of them.

As I matured, I found it stupid to pretend to represent myself a certain way. I learned that if I wanted to be accepted by others I had to accept me first. So I learned how to speak with my friends in one way and with teachers and other adults the proper way, never truly speaking Ebonics though.

Now as an adult, kids always say you speak like a white person, and they say it like it is a curse. So I ask, "How does a white person speak?"






Here are the Reponses:
* out of their noses
* high pitched
* proper
* pronouncing words funny
* Over pronounciatiation of words
* adding too many emotions
* using words that are nerdy, etc.

This does not make sense to me as an adult. So when I meet with teens I talk about putting their best foot forward and being the best that they can be in this life. I also explain the difference in speaking Ebonics and standard correct English and how the latter one will help them obtain jobs, etc.

African American teens already have enough problems in seeking employment and moving forward productively in life and they certainly don't need to add anything else to their already stacked list of problems.


What do you think about this?

18 comments:

chele said...

Too many young people adopt this way of speaking for the sake of "Keeping it real".

I hate that rationale. If keeping it real is going to keep you from getting a job you need to check yourself. For example, my 16-year old niece has never lived in the "ghetto". She has always lived an upper middle class lifestyle but you would never know it when she opens her mouth. That is not keeping it real, she's not being true to herself. She's conforming in order to fit in with a certain crowd and I think it's sad.

Starr said...

I get it all the time. They say I talk proud.

I tell them I talk educated, or at least I try, sometimes the Blackness comes out.

Have a nice week, Thanks for stopping by!

BostonPobble said...

My best friend, the Divine M, is black. She and her husband get accused of "being too white" often. Her response is "I know who I am and that's what matters." We are all trying to instill this same sense of self into her daughter. The sense that she can be well-spoken, well-educated *and* know her heritage and where she's from. The world certainly won't let her forget it so why should she not embrace it ~ and speak well.

The funny part is when her husband looks at me and asks "Damn, Pobble! You sure you're *white*?"

Miz JJ said...

I get the same thing when I speak. At least I am understandable when I travel around the world. People know what the hell I am saying. I mean why try to sound ignorant. It makes no sense to me.

Msnhim said...

Im like that with my kids. I know they need to feel accepted by their friends but with me and other adults they have to "turn the ghetto" off and save if for their friends.

kathi said...

Rose, that cartoon with the teacher at the board made me laugh. And I hope you know, it's not just the black kids, it's white kids using 'ebonics' too. Sometimes I'll have white kids in my classes try to sound so 'black' that even the black kids make fun of them. I don't get it. But I think it'll all be like hair styles and clothing fads, someday when they're older and smarter (some of them, anyway) they will look back and wonder what in the world they were thinking.

E said...

Oh gosh...don't get me started on that topic. I heard that a lot growing up..'you sound too white'..whatever that means.

The Sarccastik Variable Why said...

very good point...i think the teens need to understand that it's a time and a place for everything...i find it stupid too...i hate when people say that in a professional environment...i'm teaching lil'sarccastik to speak proper english...there's nothing wrong with laughing and joking amongst your close knit family and friends...it burns me up when i hear that "Talking like a White Person" tag...are you trying to say that white people are the benchmark as far as proper english....HOGWASH!!!!lol good point

Brotha Buck said...

Oh wow, you are speaking exactly what I tried speaking to my daughters! ONe listened, the other didn't, and she still talks ebonics because she doesn't know any better.

lady in satin said...

Using correct grammer while speaking is not the same as "talking white". I can relate to you because I speak proper and I have some family members who accuse me o "talking white". But you know what? I don't even acknowledge those comments because that is so beneath my intellect. There's no such thing as "talking white" in my opinion.

Stephen Bess said...

Hello Rose. Language is extremely powerful. It is a way that people identify with each other. People often use the phrase, "he/she speaks my language." People are more comfortable with their "own kind." We are often judged based on the way that we speak. It's not always a deciding factor, but that's the way it is. It's just one of those devisive things that we use as human beings. The people who are blessed are those who can move beyond that and just accept individuals as they are and as they speak.

Elizabeth said...

This is an interesting topic. I think if someone tells you that you "talk proud" a good response would be "I am proud."

Language standards overall are declining. I find grammatical errors in the New York Times.

The point about going overseas is a good one. I speak French and Spanish (sort of, anyway) and I find I can understand educated French and Spanish people, but the uneducated Puerto Ricans and Dominicans on the subway here in NYC, I cannot understand. That's because they aren't really speaking Spanish; they are speaking a slang garble of Spanish. I wonder if educated Spanish speakers get accused of "talking white"?

MsPlacedAmbition said...

we need to promote education, self-awareness, and real thinking for self

Jazz said...

You are so right...I get sick of hearing that same phrase...people need to understand that there is a place and time for everything, even the way you speak. When you go on a job interview, you should present a professional apeearance and that includes speaking. When you are with friends you can chill and speak Ebonics or whatever. Some people just don't know how to turn it off and on...

Frank Staheli said...

There is nothing wrong with speaking Ebonics per se, in my opinion.

But like you say, it is not something that will get them very far in life.

I think it's important that people of all cultures retain their culture (assuming that Ebonics can be so classified)--because how bland would the world be if everyone only spoke English and only ate Big Macs?--but that they assimilate into overall society, since a common language and frame of reference is the best way to ensure that we all can work together for our common betterment.

princessdominique said...

I was accused of the same thing. People have to handle it. Talking proper never changes, its too much work for me to keep up with slang.

Shawn said...

I think it's sad that many AA teens have bought in to the lie that speaking a certain way makes them more black and that speaking correctly means you sound white.

I think the brainwashing that's done by us to our youth on certain issues is sickening.

Pride and glee that some youth express when they dumbdown their language is mind boggling.

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