On “Talking White,” And Various Anti-Black Shenanigans


“Why you talk so white?”

“You speak proper.”

Besides being grammatically incorrect, because correction ( Rafiki voice) the statement should be  “You speak PROPERLY.” But I digress. Before I proceed to send for every person who has ever accused me of “talking white,” I’m going to direct your attention to the brilliant masterpiece of spoken word that is Kai Davis’ “Fuck I Look Like.”

Now that you have hopefully, learned a thing or two, and have refrained from your “having people fucked up” tendencies, let’s talk about anti-blackness and speaking like a descendant of the Caucasus mountains.

How does one speak like a white person? Pray tell.

I was unaware that using both a subject and a predicate was specific to a racial identity. The more you know…

I spent pretty much all of my adolescence of having the cadence and vocabulary of someone who is devoid of melanin, i.e. white. My favorite was being called an “Oreo,” mostly by family members who at the same time encouraged my love of reading and writing and told me to speak like I had some sense when out in public.

So I never quite understood how my appreciation for a well-placed comma and my long-term relationship with Merriam-Webster made me lose my metaphorical Black card.

Several years and Donald Trump later, I have undergone what the cool kids call an awakening and not only have I spent a lot of time facing my own racial bias and self-hate, but I have realized that accusing a brown or yellow-skinned human of sounding white you are in fact implying that eloquence is a white trait, which I would bet my head wrap against.

I know that is the narrative that we have been sold, one where using AAVE means that literacy missed you and that using words with more than one syllable means that you play for the side of oppression; and I’m not sure what’s worse, that we have internalized this narrative or that we use it against one another as if we aren’t members of the same marginalized community.

As if we don’t frown at our fellow melanin folk who did not heed their mother’s warning to talk like they got some sense and then judge them for the manner in which they speak.

Plot twist: The way that a person and certainly a black person speaks, is a very rarely a reflection of their intellect and instead a direct reflection of their environment.

I think the appropriate response the next time anybody tries to insinuate that your love of a big word stems from some unfulfilled desire to turn pale, ask them what being black looks like? What does it sound like?

Cuz I have yet to solve that riddle.