A few weeks ago I blogged about a girl who came in to interview with my company who didn’t get the job because she didn’t have the right “personality”, when what my manager really meant was she sounded too “Black”. It’s an unfortunate event that happens every day to Black folk – the immediate disqualification from a job opportunity because you sound, well, Black.
But what about when your accent keeps you from ascending to the highest job in the land – say, I dunno, the president of the United States?
I was listening to NPR this morning, and there is a dude I’ve never heard of in the Republican circles who’s posturing himself as though he’s running for president. His name is Haley Barbour. He’s from Mississippi. The deep, Deep South: where some black folk are still share croppin’ and who have some of the lowest literacy rates and highest obesity rates in the nation.
In the short snippet I heard on the radio, I knew immediately this was NOT a guy I would vote for, or whom I wanted to be my president. And it’s not because I’m Black or because he’s a republican. I voted for George Bush twice. It’s just because he sounds like a card carrying member of the Ku Klux Klan. These are the exact words he used on the program:
“What he means is: We have to cut down on all this spending and stop giving niggers and beaners free federal dollars!”
Now, consider if Barack Obama said the exact same phrase in his elite Harvard accent:
My, and everyone else’s translation:
“Wow! What a fiscally responsible president we have! He’s thinking of the long term consequences of spending what we don’t have. C’mon guys, lets tighten our belts, put our hands to the plow and get America back on track!”
It’s something I’ve always known, but in my older age is becoming more and more apparent – that what you say is sometimes not as important as how you say it. Sometimes, who is saying it makes all the difference. Whether the messenger gets shot or not sometimes highly depends on who that messenger is.
Let’s not mince words. If a gay guy walked up to you in the kitchen and said “Ooh, we need to spice things up around here, don’t we?”, you’d assume he was referring to the color and hue of your wallpaper. Perhaps it is too dull…But if a Mexican guy standing in the kitchen said the same thing, you’d inform him, very politely, that your nacho dip does not in fact require more jalapeños.
Am I wrong?