Who you are and where you live matters. I know it sounds obvious but it isn’t.
There are a few things that trigger me in life and language is one of them. Or rather the mockery of black and brown people when they speak in less than perfect English or with less than English accents.
The “kullits,” the “blecks” are words thrown around as if to mock black and brown peoples’ “inability” to speak less than perfect English.
The almost declaration made my white people to instruct black and brown people on pronunciation is extremely offensive and speaks of racism that is so subtle that it is barely noticeable and when a black or brown person “fails” at the standard wittingly or unwittingly set by white people, we are then judged on every other aspect or area of our lives.
Our intelligence or rather lack thereof is measured by our inability to pronounce words simply because we are in Africa.
Geography matters because French or Italian people who are unable to speak less than perfect English and are not judged as harshly. Instead, they are helped along, assisted and indulged like a child learning to walk after unsteadily taking a few steps.
Yet listening to black and brown people “mispronouncing” words are never seen as offensive. Instead the accent or “eccent” is mocked and a source of amusement to the white person listening. In fact, people become so outraged and horrified at black and brown accents that it becomes almost impossible to find gainful employment within white spaces.
Geography matters when some Europeans enter this country barely able to speak English never mind an indigenous language. Sadly, everyone who is not from Africa is patiently taught how to pronounce English words. Even an African American visiting this country is welcomed more by white people based on their accent.
The black people of our country largely speak more than one language and are naturally multilingual and often English serves as a 3rd or 4th language. That’s hardly a sign of someone who isn’t “intelligent?”
The prejudice with which black and brown people are judged is harsh but mostly racist and unreasonable. The patience displayed with European tourists is evident that racism, particularly linguistic racism is at play.
Linguistic racism isn’t just words that hurt feelings. It is a technique that the dominant group uses to enforce the racial hierarchy in order to maintain access and control over resources and institutions.
“Articulate” is the classic example. White people are assumed to articulate, so it isn’t mentioned.
If we are to move away from colonialism, you can’t decide which accent is acceptable or who is intelligent.
History is full of conmen who spoke “perfect” English with “perfect” accents.
Geography is after all only human, environmental and physical.