Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The race you hear...

Happy Wednesday, chil’ren!

St. Louis woke up to some serious snow, which is still falling outside and giving local drivers and excuse to drive like they have lost their natural mind. Which means a bitch is full to bursting of bitchitude!

Call to the United Church of Bitchitude and Latter Day Drunks!
A bitch needs a revival of sorts. Can we get a meeting at AMP? Huh…can we?

Update on AngryBlackBitch Fest…
The date is February 24. The occasion? The one year anniversary of a bitch’s blog and a bitch’s birthday! Oh, hell yes! Details are still being ironed out, but the festivities will include the debut of a bitch’s play All About Ann featuring the fantabulous Blood Ray and a certain Shavita as Ann Coulter. Events shall center around Manchester and involve a lot of drinking…eating of soul food…and debauchery! Oh, and the play!

Lawd, a bitch can’t wait. Food, vodka, chocolate…what could be better? More details to follow once a bitch gets my ass in gear.

Jumping in with thoughts of international chocolate on my mind…

The race you hear...
Yesterday, an article in the St. Louis Post Dispatch web site asked the question…does black have a sound? A bitch read on to discover that the article was about voice profiling. My international readers should know that this refers to the cultural and regional accents in America.

The article specifically addressed profiling…screening and drawing assumptions about an individual based on their assumed race determined by their voice. Through such profiles, an individual may be assumed to be white or black, smart or dumb as a motherfucker, rich or poor and so forth. As with most profiling, voice profiling is usually used to the detriment of the individual being profiled. A person may be rejected for a job interview, leasing an apartment or pitching a contract.

Writing exposes a unique side of voice profiling…the assumed spoken voice behind the written voice of an author. Most of y’all don’t know a bitch, so you are projecting a voice to go along with my words. This dawned on me when some ignorant shit posted a comment using a certain colloquial flair stereotypically associated with blacks. Got my back up, mostly because a bitch has always been a victim of that shit from the flip side.

A bitch was raised in a predominately white suburb of St. Louis. My father was from Pennsylvania and lacked a traditional southern accent. My mother, though raised in the south, was particularly dedicated to breaking away from her southern accent. So a bitch was raised using a more formal version English. What ignorant bigoted blog surfing shits may call 'uppity talk'.

This bitch was accused of talking white by black people and not talking black enough by white people. Some 8 years in Dallas post college helped round out that 'uppity' accent a bit, but this bitch still doesn’t 'talk black' by St. Louis standards.

So, is a voice black or white? If a black bitch talks like this, isn't it automatically black? And should anyone be denied access to something simply because they sound black or southern or small or large?

Jesus to Gawd, are we still stuck on this shit?

A bitch has had many illuminating experiences because of my voice. If this bitch had a dollar for every time my ass set up a meeting over the phone only to see complete surprise on their face upon seeing my ass walk through the door a bitch would own Nestle…and the first order of business would be distribution of Smarties in America (wink).

As a culture buff (Anthropology major…guilty!), a bitch is distressed by voice profiling. It results in southern students being taught to drop their accents, New Englanders being schooled out of that nifty and oh so specific sound and Midwesterners being taunted for how we say water. Difference is not bad and should not be threatening…New Yorkers are not superior because of their accent and folks from Virginia are not slow or stupid because they speak as if every word were dripping in something sweet and decadent.

And black people don’t all ‘talk like that’ nor does ‘talking like that’ mean they can’t make rent every month. Assholes.

Oh…and for the record 'Lawd' is said with a serious sassy slightly uppity accent... and absolutley no shame. Color this bitch black and call it a fucking day.


Anonymous said...

First, I just discovered your blog a few weeks ago, and I'm more addicted to it than a bitch is to Sudafed. As always, the current post kicks ass. I love this sociolinguistic shit. And finding out that a bitch is a fellow Piscean and a fellow Anthropology major makes me worship her bitchitude even more. I'm not as articulate, but just yesterday I posted an account of my own "code switching" experiences and how I sometimes regret eliminating my working-class just-this-side-of-white-trash South Jersey accent. I think this whole thing goes along with your previous comments about how respectable Condi comes off, in part because she "speaks so well." I hate to admit my own bias against motherfuckers who "sound dumb," but I think it's all about mastering the art of code switching without compromising our regional deliciousness! Truth be told, though, first on my hit list are these annoying-assed sing-songy whitebread California valley girls and surfer dudes that I find myself surrounded by. Yes, I can appreciate them on the abovementioned sociolinguistic level, but one of these days, someone behind me in the movie theater is gonna get slapped.

Crystal-Lynn said...

Great post, Shark-Fu. I'm in Chicago. I'm in Hell.


Michael M. said...

A foaf produced the radio piece How to Sound White on The Phone.

Michael M. said...

Oh, I forgot to mention the great part of Do You Speak American? about exactly the phenomenon with John Baugh who is now at head of the African and African American Studies Program at WashU.

Dixie said...

It makes me a bit sad that living away from Mississippi and speaking German half the time has eroded my southern accent. I have a nice, non-twangy southern accent and I want to keep it.

Wish I could visit home more often so I could get it recharged.

CP said...

White voice and black voice aside, I have that same problem with my "New York Jewish accent". I live in Central Florida (home of the KKK) and I often get told by my bosses that the southern born/bred patients find my voice "offensive" when I leave messages on their answering machines. They say I sound too "Brooklyn". I have never lived in Brooklyn and I suspect that the people who complain about me have never been to Brooklyn, period. I get told that I speak too fast for them to understand. Hm, couldn't possibly be that most of my patients are like 117 years old? I get asked "oh, you're from New York?" all the time...and when I reply in the affirmative, it seems like a look clouds their face. I feel that they look at me with every single pre-conceived notion of what a New Yorker is or might be, from what they have heard.

In the interim, my husband was born and raised in Israel. However he sounds like he has lived in Brooklyn his entire life. He was there for three years and adapted that speech pattern while learning English. Simple as that. He does what he can to veil his Israeli accent on the phone with clients, again, due to preconceived notions about people from the middle east.

It seems that if those who fear, those who hate and those who are ignorant cannot put people in neat little packages complete with labels, they simply do not feel comfortable.

At least, that's what THIS Jewish Princess thinks.


Unknown said...

thanks for the recipe ABB! :>

Anonymous said...

I also adore a bitch. This is a blog I can't wait to fly to after my morning coffee (no sudafed addiction here but I can slam coffee faster than a San Diego sorority girl slams tequila shots in Tijuana before her donkey show).
This is a WONDERFUL post about a wonderful article. My undergrad degree is in English but my advisor (and, possibly, the most intelligent person I've ever known) was far more interested in linguistics, so our classes and private conversations often revolved around similar topics.
The sad truth is that we'll forever "profile" people based on our preconceived notions because that's what we, as humans, tend to do. I hate to suggest we engage in group think all the time, but it's a simple and easy way to "gather information" about people really quickly. Confused about someone? Just dredge up all those ideas you have about the folk who live in the black part of town and you're fine!
My coworker at my last job had a "black" first name. Her middle name and speaking voice were VERY white. So her resume had her first initial with her middle name. The end result was that they viewed her resume and phone demeanor VERY positively and practically slammed the door shut on her in interviews.
As a white man (albeit gay), I haven't encountered that prejudice yet. However, given the rampant homophobia in my workplace, I'm about to adopt some seriously gay lisps and go to town on these homo haters. I guess if I spoke gay they'd know, right? Sorry for the diatribe. Your blog is wonderful!

christine mtm said...

well, here's something i never even thought of. i have always loved the southern drawl and use y'all all the time (which really confuses people since i'm a yankee through and through.)

my best friend is black and she was often accused of sounding too white, even by members of her family.

i guess we will always find ways to prejudge other people.

Hammer said...


I'm ready for a revival. My spirit needs a revival. Can't wait for your play. Sounds good.

So, about the voice shit...

It reminds me of the days when I used to get confused for a woman on the phone. Totally funny. I mean, this happened well into highschool. In fact, it used to happenin drive-thrus as well. Then I'd get to the window and they'd freak.

Of course now, I've butched up my voice by smoking, swearing, and screaming. See the changes we all go through to fit in.

TO people who are so cencerned with labeling voices...I say a fond, feminine, fuck you!

Love the post!
Peace ABB!


Delcano said...

So loving your words and have learned to enjoy wallowing in them when I visit. Being from St. Louis, I too read that Post Dispatch article which simply reminded me how thru the pressures of comformity we are losing so many of our rich regional dialects and delicious sounds in speech. And yes, I have been the victim of voice profiling many times.

I shall be around peeping and listening for your lovely voice.

BarefootCajun said...

Ok, I have my own lesson learned about "voice profiling".

Years ago when I was a brand new 19-year-old dispatcher at the Sheriff's Office where I worked there was a dispatcher that worked for the State Police that had the sexiest voice imaginable. It was a deep baritone and when he got on that radio, there wasn't a dry seat in any law enforcement agency within a 100 mile radius.

I finally met him at a conference and while he was one of the sweetest guys I've ever met, the voice certainly didn't match the man. Sexy though the voice may have been, he actually looked like one of the Boobahs.

Lesson learned early in life.

Susan D. said...

I don't know about *speaking* voices, but I do think there is a certain quality to a black person's *singing* voice, which as a young child I was jealous of! There is a certain depth or timbre, I don't know what, a velvety richness, to many black singing voices which I picked up on very early. I remember listening to gospel on the turntable (my stepmother was a fan), and asking her whether I would sing like that when I grew up. She told me No, only black ladies sound like that, and it made me very sad. I have an OK singing voice for a Jew/white girl, but none of that lovely richness and texture I heard when listening to my stepmother's gospel records as a kid. Do you know what I'm talking about? I guess what I'm getting at is, to the extent that there *are* differences that coincide with race, perhaps they are something to celebrate and give thanks for... do you sing? :-)

DavidStL said...

Wow. I remember as kid going down south and my "kin" asking me why I talked funny. Then as a adult getting turned down for a job at a black radio station, for not sounding "black" enough.
Great Post!

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