Thursday, February 7, 2008

He's so Well-Spoken

OK. More racial stuff.

A friend of mine and I have a running joke. We sometimes refer people as "well-spoken." This is something that he and I have heard fairly often. Usually it comes up in the context of someone who is black or an athlete (especially both) who is able to speak in standard English.

The phrase "well-spoken" seems to be our culture's code for "I expect him to be dumb as a doorknob, but he speaks standard English, so he must be smarter than most people like him." When referring to someone who is black, it can translate roughly as "he doesn't speak in Ebonics, so he must not be as ignorant as most negros." OK. Maybe that is too harsh as a ridiculous generalization, but that's how I often interpret it. Frankly, in many contexts it says more about the person saying it than it does about the subject.

I've heard this phrase used with athletes, broadcasters, and politicians. I'm sure some people have used it to describe me since I speak in standard English. As a matter of fact, my Ebonics is really bad. Any time I try to "go ghetto" in my speech, it sounds absolutely ridiculous. It's kinda like Carlton Banks from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air trying to be tough. It just doesn't work.

Some truly special people can go back and forth between speech that works in predominantly black groups and speech that is considered "well-spoken." I really respect these people. Being able to play to your audience is a tremendous skill to have. On the other hand, I am just a well-spoken negro.

BTW: Checkout jblocksom's comments on yesterday's post on Presidential Dreaming. The links he posted are quite excellent.

The Day
  • Workout: leg raises
  • Music: Beethoven, Kraftwerk, Bjork
Video Nugget
Autobahn is one of the most unknown great and influential albums of all time. Kraftwerk were on the bleeding edge of techno music with this. All synth-driven funk and pop music owes a debt to these guys.

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