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'How you sound should not determine your character'

In my life I have encountered many situations where how I spoke made people think that I were smarter or “better” than them. Because I enunciated my words and spoke in full sentences, I was told I spoke “like a white girl.”

As a young teen, I enjoyed reading, which might be where I developed my speech pattern of speaking in complete sentences. In the books I read, authors delivered stories in Standard English. I find this type of writing more interesting than what some mislabel as “broken English.”

How you sound should not determine your character; speaking is supposed to be about getting one’s point across to the best of one’s ability while still having an audience be able to comprehend.

I looked to others for an example.

Dana Beaurem, the HR Manager for the automotive company Martinrea shared with me her experience changing the way she speaks at work. Dana has dismissed that fact that people perceive her as a white woman on the phone, due her “professional-sounding” voice.

Can I not be an African American who enjoys reading books and sounds professional, without being classified as “smart” or “white?”

One young woman said to Beaurem during a work meeting: “Oh, wow, you don’t look like how you sound on the phone.” The HR manager looked at that person, and then went on with the meeting. Beaurem told me wasn’t really fazed by the encounter because it happens all the time.

As a child, Beauren even noticed when business calls came to the house, her mother sounded different then when she would talk to her daughter and friends. Beaurem grew to believe that “this voice” was a requirement of being successful in business.

Even as a woman in her middle ages, growing up, sounding a certain way was considered “professional” and “white.”

If “sounding white” means being a person who enunciates their words and speaks in complete sentences, and “sounding black” is when a person uses slang, then I don’t know where people like myself fit in.


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