Tuesday, January 12, 2010

"Negro Dialect"

Good morning everyone!

So I'm sure by now most of you have heard about Harry Reid's comments about Barack Obama being "light-skinned-ded" while not speaking with a "negro dialect." I'm sure you can imagine the fall-out from such remarks...and of course the ladies of The View had to break it down as well:



Whoopi didn't seem to have a problem with it, and I won't assume that ALL Black people were offended by the comments. Like Whoopi said, "negro" isn't a bad word.

But what exactly is "negro dialect"? Is that the same as Ebonics? Old School Ebonics? What is that?

Back to that in a minute...

How many of you would consider President Obama "light skinned"? While Whoopi said he wasn't really "light," I think that's relative to who you're talking about. Some would say he is, some would say he isn't. But that really isn't the issue...or the question. My question to you all is - do you consider "light skinned" Black people to be less "Black"? Less "scary"? More "accepted"?

Everyone's experience with race, color (meaning "light," "dark" or somewhere in the middle) and "dialect" is different. Speaking for myself, I always instinctively knew what it meant when a White person said that I was "articulate." However, is that something I should take offense to? After all, I AM articulate - meaning I can communicate effectively. Not all people are articulate - White OR Black...but at the same time, it was always the "tone" with which it was said that let me know that they didn't expect me to be.

But as a person who was never really considered "light" OR "dark," I never really got a handle on if White people felt I was more or less "threatening" or "acceptable." I've been told that I wasn't like "other" Black people - but I simply chalked that up to proper English and a "non-ethnic" name...and their ignorance of course. But I'm curious to hear from my other "colored" folk about their experience as a "light" or "dark" person.

Whether you took offense to Harry Reid's comments or not, it's still baffling that something such as a person's skin tone and how they speak determines whether or not he or she is actually qualified to do their job or to seek the Presidency. Now, I get that you don't want a bumbling idiot in the White House (even though our previous President might fit that bill), but do we equate that with "negro dialect"? I'm still trying to figure out what that is.

Sound off on this - tell me what your experience has been as far as how you were/are perceived based on how you speak or what your skin tone is. This should be interesting.

Go!

-b

38 comments:

Stephanie said...

OMG FIRST BITCHES

Brooke said...

yay Stephanie!!

I'll be reading comments, but won't be able to comment back until about 2:30 or so...have an offsite company meeting to go to :-( Be back soon though!

Yolanda said...

Harry Reid told the truth. But you can't say stuff like that any place where it will be part of public record. Just keep those thoughts to yourself. We all know Obama isn't "threatening" and yes, he's "articulate and clean" and all of that other stuff we get mad at white people for saying publicly. The point is, he's educated and qualified and that pisses some people off because they can't "get" to him. Any Black person who rises to the level of U.S. Senator would have to have the qualifications necessary to lead his state or even the country... we are not allowed to simply slide by. We have to be over-qualified to take these positions.

This whole discussion about Reid's comments (and Bill Clinton's comments in that same book) is another way for us to become distracted from the real matters at hand. The country should be having an open discussion on health care and the economy... not what some Mormon from Searchlight, Nevada thinks.

Stephanie said...

THIS COMMENT REALLY BOTHERS ME.THE FACT THAT IN 2010 PEOPLE ARE STILL MAKING STUPID COMMENTS LIKE THE IS QUITE DISTURBING. #1 IT'S OBVIOUS PRESIDENT OBAMA IS A BLACK MAN. DOES IT MATTER IF HE'S LIGHT SKINNED OR DARK SKINNED. ALL THAT MATTERS IS THAT HE TRIES TO FULFILL THE PROMISES HE MADE TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE.THE PRESIDENT SPEAKS ENGlISH JUST LIKE EVERY WHITE POLITICAN OUT THERE ."NEGRO DIALECT" WTF DOES THAT MEAN.THE COMMENT IS RACIST. MR REID IMPLIES THAT OBAMA IS TRYING TO PASS AS SOMETHING HE'S NOT SIMPLY BECAUSE HE HAS A COMMAND OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE. REID ALSO SAID THAT BECAUSE OBAMA IS LIGHT SKINNED THAT HE MAKES WHITE PEOPLE COMFORTABLE. WTF.SO IF HE WAS SLIGHTLY DARKER HE WOULD FREAK AMERICANS OUT. I DON'T GET IT.THERE IS THIS STIGMA THAT MINORITY PEOPLE ARE SOME HOW LESS THAN, LESS EDUCATED, GOD FORBID WE KNOW HOW TO SPEAK SIMPLE ENGLISH OR ACTUALLY BACK UP ANY OF OUR COMMENTS WITH ACTUAL FACTS OR EVEN HAVE COMMON SENSE. I'M HALF ITALIAN AND HALF PUERTO RICAN. MY FIRST JOB WAS AS A LEGAL SECRETARY HERE IN MANHATTAN. ONE OF THE ATTORNEYS AT THE FIRM TOLD ME ONE DAY THAT I NEVER HAD TO TELL ANYONE THAT I WAS PUERTO RICAN BECAUSE I WAS SO ARTICULATE AND DIDN'T EVEN LOOK PUERTO RICAN.TO MY HORROR I REPLIED THAT I WOULD NEVER DO THAT. IN MY HEAD I'M 100% PUERTO RICAN AND PROUD OF IT.AND THAT THE REASON I'M SO ARTICULATE IS BECAUSE I WENT TO SCHOOL "DUH". HE PROBABLY THOUGHT THAT I HAVE 3 KIDS FROM 3 DIFFERENT BABY DADDIES AND WAIT FOR A WELFARE CHECK AS WELL. FREAKEN DUMB ASS. I THANK MY FAMILY FOR GIVING ME A SENSE OF PRIDE AND ALWAYS REMINDING ME THAT YOU ARE WHAT YOU MAKE OF YOURSELF.

Annamaria said...

Stephanie I'm pulling out the taser!!!!! LMAO

The funny part is if he spoke with "negro dialect" he
1. wouldn't have gotten elected!
2. They'd be talking about him left & right on capital hill
and
3. They would have gotten him a speech coach a LONG time ago!

Stephanie trust me I understand where you coming from... I get weird looks since I am 30 and just had my FIRST kid & know who my baby daddy is & am actually in a relationship with him!! OOOOOOOO what kind of Puerto Ricans do you have on your blog Brooke! lol

Rameer "The Circumstance" said...

I think Negroes should get over it.

I detest Whoopi Goldberg (another topic for another day), but I'll never begrudge the woman for her being intelligent. She was on-point with her comments, and so is Yolanda. Anyone on here, let me be the wake up call - WHITE PEOPLE THINK OF US THIS WAY, and some even WORSE. Sorry. That white dude you are so cool with at work? Yup - he thinks this way. The white girl you always kick it with when you're out, and hangs with the crew? She does too.

You and others are considered "exceptions", not the rule.

Spike Lee addressed all this crap in School Daze and Do The Right Thing. But, like I always say - muddafuggas watch movies, but don't actually get the message. Truth is darker skinned Blacks subconsciously intimidate some whites and make them uncomfortable.

Truth is, most whites think Blacks who are articulate don't "speak Black".

Like Yolanda said - this is all smoke and mirrors. And good observation on the uproar over Clinton's comments - like I wrote on Facebook, Yolanda - I knew he was a jumbo racist during the Democratic primary when he started getting mad and flustered cuz his wife was losing, and his REAL feelings came out numerous times. I was upset at myself for being fooled all those years...but it is what it is.

This just takes the focus off of what truly matters. It's really a non-issue...Whoopi summed it up pretty good in the clip above.

As far as skin tone - I've heard I'm "light-skinned" from some Blacks; others don't think so. For the record, my skin tone is pretty much caramel - put a piece next to my arm and it matches. I'm brown.

But I don't even associate with people who harp on the tone of my skin. If it's that much of an issue on your mind - whether you're white, Black, Asian, whatever - that reveals to me a mindset of a person I don't want to be around. So you're not really in my circumference in skin tone is constantly on your mind when it comes to people of color. I think that's just ignorance manifested.

My 75 cents. I'm sure I'll have more.

Midnight said...

First off I think its amusing how no one ever says he's a dark caucasian...lol. I mean his mama was white but I guess the "one drop" theory is still in effect. As for what Reid said, was it a racist statement? YES! Does that make him racist? No! I mean even us black people make comments like that all the time. Difference is the white man said it. I can admit to people that up until inauguration I didnt think he would get elected, just what i have learned over the years from this country. I agree that it is frustrating to the nay sayers that they can't "get at him" because he is so qualified. However lets not turn a blind eye to the fact that skin color and speech is a factor in this country. I know my darker complexion makes me a bit more intimidating to people and not just white people, ALL people. Its what society has conditioned people to think. I also have been told I dont look like how I sound. Yeah i "speak so well" bullshit that is supposed to be a compliment.....so on one hand i do thin kthe comment was wrong but on the other that dont mean its not the truth....

Geeque4u said...

@Rameer- You hit on the nail again. You spoke thr truth!

Malik said...

I posted the following on my FB status:
I wonder what is the big fuss? Think about the things you say in private and what would happen if some had a recorder then put your one line out in public.

Although Harry Reid/Bubba or whomever have chosen very poor wording to describe their insight into the perception of BO, this is not surprising, just like young black folk getting shot by the police, ignorance, or any other dysfunctional behavior.

Harry Reid is culturally removed from black culture and he is just going to be "ignorantly affable" when he describes our culture. If you talk to him he'd probably thought he was biggin' up the culture.

A while ago Rameer said that we should all be prepared for this type of nonsense because BO was the first. None of this surprises me (which is sad), because their pathology is still set in the dark ages of overseer politics where they think they have the right to say whatever.

Having the HNIC is a new new thing for the former white power brokers in charge. Every now and then you are going to hear a voluntary gaffe, well intentioned or not.

Annamaria said...

Very well said Nicole!!!! :)

Brooke said...

Annamaria, that was Malik, not Malek :-) LOL!

Just now getting back and reading your comments on this...good stuff. I'll chime in more in a bit.

Jay said...

I agree for the most part with what everyone is saying. I don't automatically think every white person is a racist based on things they say, and I don't excuse it either simply because they're ignorant. While there are more important things to discuss like Yolanda said, I don't ever think we can talk about race relations in this country enough. I think most people shy away from it, but I think more of it needs to be done. That doesn't mean perceptions will change, and definitely not overnight, but dialogue about race is never a bad thing to me.

Brooke, were you offended when you heard Harry Reid's comments. I couldn't really gauge from your blog your stance on it.

Stef said...

I thought it was an ignorant thing to say, but old white folks don't phase me. I think I've become desensitized to it all.

I don't assume all black people are stupid, criminals and threatening - so I don't make comments like that in the privacy of my own home. I don't condone with other people say it, but I chalk it up to ignorance and that they'll never "get it." But I will never say he's speaking the truth, because it's not the truth...it's HIS truth and how HE perceives black people to be. NOT ME.

To answer your question Brooke, as for skin tone, I think black people are more hung up on it than white people are. To most white people, we're all black, no matter the shade. I find that black people are the ones who subscribe more the the "light is right" theory, which is sad. Since I'm neither "light" or "dark" per se, I'm just black to most people. I've don't think I've been treated differently because of my skin tone one way or the other.

Brooke said...

@Jay,

I wasn't surprised by his comments, and having heard similar comments growing up amongst mostly white people, I think I'm kinda used to it. Like Midnight said, it was offensive, but I didn't really take offense to it or assume he was a racist.

I've heard older Latinos who were darker than me say similar things regarding skin tone about Black people. I've heard Black people calling other Black people "darkie" or saying "she speaks like a White girl."

Ignorance is wide spread, and even though people think their intentions are good, that doesn't mean we should excuse it. We should educate them on why some might find a remark offensive. While we shouldn't turn a blind eye to it, I don't always think we should have Al Sharpton on speed dial either unless you're prepared to say you've never had any ignorant thoughts yourself. I agree that is a discussion about race is never a bad thing, but we can't lose sight of bigger issues that need solving NOW, especially since race relations are something that won't change in the near future.

I was simply curious to hear of some of your own personal experiences with speech or skin tone, and used Harry Reid's comments as a springboard to my general question.

Rameer "The Circumstance" said...

@ Stef - if you're referring to Reid's comments, his comments weren't really about Black people. It was about how palatble Obama would be to WHITE people because he is "light-skinned" and doesn't "speak with the Negro dialect". Which is why people are saying it's "the truth" - the truth in terms of why a large number of white people found him acceptable enough to be a candidate and the first Black president.

And I agree skin tone is more of an issue in communities of color. This goes back to the indoctrination of The Lie of The Bluest Eye centuries ago...and how it was ingrained and is still a part of many people of color's mindsets and subconsciousness.

Thanks to Geeque4u and Malik for the nods. I just offer my thoughts like everyone else.

Stef said...

I was speaking more to the point that some have suggested that we say the same things behind closed doors that Reid said. I don't sit around saying "black people" this and "white people" that. While I'm sure I say some pretty crazy things, racist things aren't a part of my daily discussions, behind closed doors or otherwise. I don't say things that are offensive, but it's ok because I'm black, but it's not ok for white people to say. It's the same as the N word. Just because I say it doesn't make it ok.

So my comment wasn't about if white people found him less threatening. That may be true. But at the same time, I feel that if a person is a racist, they won't care WHAT shade of black he is or how "well he speaks." I don't think they'd vote for him any quicker than they'd vote for Flavor Flav. That's just my opinion.

The Cable Guy said...

I'm never surprised by comments like these, I just let them roll off my back. But that doesn't mean people shouldn't take offense. It was an offensive thing to say, whether there was truth to it or not.

Brooke, so you really don't know what "negro dialect" is? LOL!!

Serena W. said...

I never got a preference as to my skin color but I will tell you in parts of the world (Africa for example) there are darks vs. light. When I visited South Africa 10 years ago lighter skinned Africans are considered colored. Darker are called African. Its a shame because there is still a discrimination (black vs. black).

Do I think it exists here in the USA? Yes, you hear it in all worlds...even dating. There are some of us that can't get past a person's skin tone and won't date darker vs. lighter (vice versa).

What Harry Reid said was at the wrong place, wrong time. Some things should just be kept to yourself or reworded (agree with Yolanda).

So that is my two cents, back to the grind...

Congrats to Steph for being first! LOL.

Rameer "The Circumstance" said...

A Stef - Gotcha. Makes sense.

However, I disagree with "if a person is racist". In my opinion, MOST white people in this country are racist simply due to the circumstances that manifest from birth to end in this country. The difference is being a CONSCIOUS RACIST. There's a big difference between a neo-Nazi who won't have anything to do with Black folks and your co-worker who thinks YOU'RE okay, but still has subconscious feelings that would make them cross the street if a Black person they didn't know was approaching on the same side as them.

It's the subconscious racists - the ones who are racist, but have no ill will or intent, and are open to accepting people they deem are okay (but are still slaves to stereotypes, cliches and misconceptions about people who don't look like them) that need "palatable Negroes" to accept things. And those are the ones who say things like "he speaks so well" and are astounded that Black men can have their ish together.

My thirteen cents...

Brooke said...

@ Cable Guy,

I'm sure I could assume that what he meant was that Barack Obama speaks proper English, and that anything other than that is considered "negro dialect." But at the same time, some could argue that Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton speak with a "negro dialect" even though they speak proper English as well. Like I asked, does he think "negro dialect" is Ebonics or slang? Or does he thinks it's the tinge we hear in someone's voice that lets us know we're talking to a Black person - whether they speak proper English or not. When I hear Jesse, I know he's black - but at the same time, he's not going around saying "nah mean" and "c'mon son!" either.

To me, speaking like a "white girl" was never about speaking proper English. To me, speaking like a "white girl" meant sounding like a "Valley Girl" - saying the word "like" a million times. To me, the Kardashians sound like "white girls"...from the Valley. So I never equated speaking "white" with "proper" - although that's automatically what it means to other people.

So I was just curious how Harry Reid meant it. Did he mean "negro" like Jesse Jackson...or "negro" like Pookie annem? Two very different manners of speaking, but both probably considered "negro."

Stef said...

@Rameer,

Okay, I see what you're saying. I never really thought of the undercover racists, or the ones who might not know they are. I guess I'm just of the mindset that people know when they're being racist, even if they can hang with the black girl at work. I just think white people have gotten better at hiding it, because it's not necessarily "cool" to be racist anymore.

One thing I heard at work the other day that pissed me off was a group of white people talking about Jersey Shore. One of them said the show was "ghetto" and then another one said "but there's no black people in it." I looked at them as if to ask "so is ghetto automatically "black." He istantly corrected himself like "oh, I didn't mean it that way." Comments like that make me think they know EXACTLY when they're being racist, but just hope no one is listening.

Malik said...

@Cable Guy
this quote:
"When I hear Jesse, I know he's black - but at the same time, he's not going around saying "nah mean" and "c'mon son!" either. "

Some funny issh right there.

I think he meant a "Jesse-Sharpton" comparison. At the same time, it would be great if after one of the reporters asked BO a dumb obvious question he just turned around and said "Com on Son, How yu gonna....".

We need another "Brush em off your shoulder" moment.

Rameer "The Circumstance" said...

@ Brooke - while no one but Reid can answer that question, I'm going to guess it's that thing where *you know* a Black person (or any person of color) can effectively sound like any other Black person/person of color, regardless of proper English.

Oprah is well-spoken...but you KNOW she's Black whether you see her or not, by the way she reacts, changes the tome of her voice at certain times, occasionally uses slang, etc. Same thing wit Jamie Foxx, Will Smith, Angela Bassett, and Denzel Washington.

But Aisha Tyler, Tiger Woods and Shane Battier don't "sound the part" to many. If you heard them talking and never saw them, you might make the mistake of thinking they were white, cuz they don't give any of the little clues I mentioned.

That's just my guess as to what he meant. Ironically, Obama does sound very much Black to many when he's speaking to a majority Black audience...cuz there's a time and place for that in politics. But many whites - like Reid - wouldn't be privy to that.

Jesse and Al don't count. No matter when you hear them, there's NO QUESTION you're dealing with Black men. Lolz...

Rameer "The Circumstance" said...

@ Stef - my high school was overwhelmingly a rich, white private school In my experience, I learned that many whites have an inherent racist attitude that they themselves are not consciously aware of. Which is why when someone says somethign racist - like the example you gave of the due at your job - if you literally CALL it racist, they'll say "I'm not racist! Ask ANYONE!"

They - and many people, to be honest - equate being racist with consciously hating and intending ill will to nonwhites. And it's not always that simple. In fact, Id' argue the subconscious racists are MUCH worse - cuz those are the ones who are the majority, and make decisions that effect us daily with no knowledge of how skewed their thoughts are. Those are the ones who think they have us down from whatever they see on TV.

My freshman year at the high school, I beat A LOT of white dude's asses. It wasn't until the Spring that I finally started realizing the difference between blatant racists (which were very few) and subconscious ones who are simply ignorant and/or don't know they are going off of historical precedence in thought in this country that is passed down and permeated through each generation.

Most whites think calling them racist is the most harmful, upsetting thing in the world. I tend to explain what it means and how they can be so, and then they get it. Cuz most people subconsciously think of the worst example when it comes to racism, and that's not the norm of what we encounter for the most part.

But some DO know exactly what they're saying or doing, as you referenced...lolz.

Brooke said...

Wanna know what's funny about that? Just YESTERDAY I said "c'mon son" to one of my white co-workers, and he CRACKED up laughing and knew exactly what I meant when I said it.

This guy is known to never say "no" to any of his clients, he always caves to their requests, no matter what it is, or how ridiculous. A&E has a police of never allowing production company logos in our credits, but our SVP made an exception for the Jacksons - and the white guy I was speaking to is one of the EP's for that show.

So after I make a big deal about caving to the Jackson's request, he comes over to me and says, "well, for the record...*I* didn't wanna give it to them, but Rob said it was okay."

I just looked at him, gave him the side eye and said "c'mon son" - without even thinking about it! I caught myself, but at the same time, it was so fitting that I had to let it ride. This guy listens to rap music, hangs around alot of black people and totally got it and was like, "you're right, I'm full of shit."

I had to laugh at that, but I think he was more shocked that "proper English" speaking Brooke said it. I guess for a moment, I spoke "negro" :) LOL!

Jay said...

Now THAT is funny! I would never imagine hearing you "c'mon son!" either. He probably thought he was "more black" than you were! LOL!!

Brooke said...

@ Jay,

That's EXACTLY why it was funny. He looked at me like "where did this Black girl come from?" As if he just realized for the first time that I was Black. THAT is what made that moment so funny :-)

Jay said...

and "c'mon son" is not really a "black" thing. I know plenty of white people that say that. It's a viral thing at this point :)

Jaz said...

I agree Rameer, I knew Barack Obama was black the first time I heard him, as well as Oprah, but I guess they're just more accepted.

People who don't know they're racist or have racist thoughts are the scariest of all. They're the ones judging your resume by your name and assume cuz your name is Tyrone, you aren't as qualified as "John."

The Cable Guy said...

Here's a question - if we're not offended by "negro dialect" and it's not a bad word, then why were people upset about the word "negro" being added as a checkbox on the Census form?

Rameer "The Circumstance" said...

EXACTLY, Jaz. Those are the ones making policy, laws, hiring, giving and denying opportunity...and judging who should go to jail for what - and for how long.

As far C'mon, son - cats used to just casually say that in the Northeast all the time. I'm talking back in the 90's! It's def a New York State, New England Pennsylvania type thing. It just became popular as of late thanks to Ed Lover and people copying it on TV.

It's like when cats used to say "word to your motha", "dun", "word life" or any number of slanguistics when I was young...it wasn't a big deal until some rapper/singer/actor used it, then EVERYONE knew and accepted it.

Remember when "talk to the hand" was still in the hood??? Lolz...

Ms. Penn said...

I agree pretty much with all of your comments. I wanted to go back to something Serena said. A friend of mine told me that her mother was upset she was dating a "dark skinned" man, because since my friend is "brown", her kids would automatically come out "dark" and that he or she would have a hard time in life. I was taken back by that. Her mother has a darker complexion, so I'm guessing she was having flashbacks to some traumatic experience herself and didn't want her future grandchildren to suffer the same fate.

And you never know WHAT your kids are gonna look like. I don't have either my parents' skin tone, but I have that of my grandmother. With all the genetic mixing we have, you never know.

I think it's worse when WE'RE the ones subscribing to this nonsense. Like Rameer said, the Lie of the Bluest Eye. With so many beautiful shades of black across our spectrum, we're still worried about what complexion our babies will have. Unbelievalbe.

Brooke said...

That's sad. I have a friend whose parents are happy she married a white man (she's Puerto Rican) so that her kids would be light. Her mother is especially happy. Her mother is a dark skinned PR who hates it when people assume she's black. I guess she doesn't want her grandchildren to be looked at as black either.

But she's always like, "but Brooke, I love YOU though." I guess I'm just a different kind of Black.

Rameer "The Circumstance" said...

Ever see Hotel Rwanda?

The story about the division between the Hutu and Tutsi and the origin of their conflict is 100% true. Same way today you have people of color consciously and subconsciously preferring anything that is lighter - i.e., closer to white.

What's that old saying from the 60's and 70's? "If you're white, you're alright, if you're Black, get back"??

That mindset is extremely pervasive. Ironically enough, in many African cities and countries, and even throughout Latin America. It's sickening, and one of the extreme examples of self-hate and how intricately instilled in people of color it truly is. But there are so many examples of self-hate that most of us engage in daily that we don't even realize...I won't even get into it, cuz it's too large of a topic, and it's towards the end of my workday.

phillygrl said...

I just got this..& I must agree w/ Whoopi & Rameer...didn't offend me & i am NOT surprised that people are saying things like this AND MUCH WORSE..when they thing it's "off the record" so to speak, or behind closed doors.....as my grandmom aleasy says..."that's life in the big city."

Little Girl Blue said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Little Girl Blue said...

Stereotypes are a real time-saver.

Being a "light-skinned" black woman with a SUPER anglo name and a big azz afro, the only thing I'll say here is that I'm racist against everyone. I don't care where yo' azz came from. lol.

And yeah, kinda over the stuff said in the dark coming into the light (no pun intended). It'll always be there, particularly within the race. Paper bag test, anyone?

Little Girl Blue said...

(and my bad on deleting my comment earlier. jumped the gun. haha.)

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