Why You Sound White?

 

By: Chelsea Davis-Bibb, M.Ed.

(Becoming Part II)

Through my education, I didn’t just develop skills, I didn’t just develop the ability to learn, but I developed confidence.

– Michelle Obama

In the book Becoming by Michelle Obama, she talks about a time when she was talking with some girls her age. One of the girls asked, “How come you talk like a White girl?” When I read this, it immediately resonated with me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told, “You sound like a White girl.”

For the longest, I didn’t know how to take it, or even understood what it meant. I would just shake it off and say, ‘no I don’t.’ I didn’t know whether I should be offended about it, laugh about it, but mostly, I was confused about it. Here I was a Black girl being called White. What did this mean?

After being called this a few times, I eventually told my parents. I needed answers. More importantly, I just wanted to understand. My parents told me that it’s because of how I talk and articulate when speaking. To others, I sounded proper just how the “White people sounded.”

Just like Michelle Obama’s parents, mine taught me how to enunciate my words and to avoid slang talk. My parents always had us reading and learning new things. We also traveled to different places during family vacations. This helped us gain experience and become well-diverse and knowledgeable about different cultures and aspects of life.

Today, I know I don’t sound like a White girl, I just articulate what I am saying. I speak English, point blank. I believe as a Black person, there is a certain stereotype we have to continuously fight against and one is that Black people talk “ghetto” or speak “Ebonics,” which is broken American English also known as “African-American English.”

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, scholars think, “Ebonics, like several English Creoles developed from contacts between nonstandard varieties of colonial English and African languages.” The source further adds that this language is typically used by those who have a low level of education. More information about Ebonics includes, “the emergence of Ebonics as a separate dialect may be correlated with the emergence of African-American traditions in music, religious practices, and cooking styles, all of which developed separately from the practices of White Americans.”

Separate practices means separate languages and in that result, it means separate races. So how can we break this stigma of not being able to speak properly? Apparently by “talking and sounding White.” Michelle Obama further talked about how her parents wanted them to succeed in life and one way to do this was how they talked. She states, “The idea was we were to transcend, to get ourselves further…we were expected not just to be smart but to own our smartness-to inhabit it with pride-and this filtered down to how we spoke.”

I am proud of who I am, how I talk and the education I’ve received. I don’t talk White, I just speak English. And if someone else says, I sound like a White girl… I’ll say, ‘Thank You!’