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Episode 250 — Mimicking Accents


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#1 July Diaz

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Posted 07 October 2013 - 08:49 PM

Jamie Lee & Andrew discuss the possible racism in mimicking accents. Make sure to leave us a message about anything you think is racist at (323) 389-RACE.

#2 .....

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Posted 08 October 2013 - 03:40 AM

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#3 pfchangs

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Posted 08 October 2013 - 08:36 AM

Shoutout to North Texas!

#4 Shariq Torres

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Posted 08 October 2013 - 08:57 AM

View PostJoshie, on 08 October 2013 - 03:40 AM, said:

There are also things like reggae songs that literally don't sound rhyming/complementary if we all talk like Rich Uncle Pennybags... are ethnolects/dialects being treated here in the same way as "accents?" It seems like, if a minority author intentionally wrote something in Caribbean patois or Black English Vernacular, and a white person reads it in Paycheck English totally without accent, it seems a lot more disrespectful of the voice of the piece than mimicking an accent is.


This is where you are wrong. The very premise that you are basing this whole argument is patently false. PoC are telling you that they are offended by white people mimicking their accent (if they happen to have one). They do understand you if you speak in, as you call it, "Rich Uncle Pennybags" accent. You don't have to exaggerate your speech because you are talking to "those people" whoever that may be -- Jamacians, black folks, Latinos, etc. What you are implying when you do this is that "those people" don't have enough mental activity to understand you, so you have to speak at "their level." It's bullshit. JFK had a Boston Brahmin accent, but did people adopt a false Boston accent around him,so that he could better understand them? No, the assumption is that a rich, Boston, white dude is going to be intelligent; not like "those people" who don't understand anything unless you throw in a "eh, chico", or "knawhatImean", or "rude boi".

#5 Kevin Irmiter

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Posted 08 October 2013 - 01:44 PM

View PostJoshie, on 08 October 2013 - 03:40 AM, said:

Again I bring up the burrito problem. If white people have to order "Tecks-uh-no burritos with gwack-uh-mole" when they want "Tay-han-oh burritos with wahk-a-molay" because they should speak linguistically white and avoid a Mexican accent, its going to create confusion and create trouble for workers, etc. Sometimes you gotta use a Mexican accent, esp. when the workers don't speak enough English to "get" what you say


Saying Spanish words and making an effort to use standard Spanish pronunciation is completely different from mimicking the way other people speak English. Especially, copying the way foreigners make mistakes as they struggle to speak English properly. When you are already making fun of them.

And it's not like Andrew said mimicking accents was 100% always racist. He said that there is clearly a non-racist way to do this, and a racist way to do this. And he pointed out, correctly, that what they are doing has a lot of potential to be racist. Like I said, they're already making fun of them so it can get racist very easily. Even if this guy isn't being racist, I'll bet you anything that some of his coworkers are. Because once you open the door to something like this, racists see it as their big chance to just let loose.

The Caribbean thing, Shariq covered well enough so I have nothing to add.

View PostJoshie, on 08 October 2013 - 03:40 AM, said:

Lastly I have to disagree that making fun of Southerners is necessarily a class thing, there are Southern aristocrat accents, Charleston plantation royalty, etc. that are very upper-crust and still get mocked like the herda hadda herda accents do


This is true, although I don't know if anyone said that mocking southerners is ALWAYS a class thing. But it tends to primarily be that, and the caller specifically said "redneck voices" which strongly implies mocking them as being dumb, lower-class, etc.

I think there might be times where copying accents wouldn't be racist, but you clearly don't understand what those situations are.

#6 .....

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Posted 09 October 2013 - 09:41 PM

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#7 Shariq Torres

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Posted 11 October 2013 - 08:26 AM

View PostJoshie, on 09 October 2013 - 09:41 PM, said:

I'm not implying that at all, nor did I ever express it. It's probably best if you just never quote me again, Shariq, since you love to lie and make up ridiculous things I never said to make me look bad. Of course they understand what hoity-toity white people are saying, that's why I said Paycheck English right there in the post you quoted, they have to understand it to earn the white man who talks like thats wages


Because before you wrote (emphasis added)

View PostJoshie, on 08 October 2013 - 03:40 AM, said:

Again I bring up the burrito problem. If white people have to order "Tecks-uh-no burritos with gwack-uh-mole" when they want "Tay-han-oh burritos with wahk-a-molay" because they should speak linguistically white and avoid a Mexican accent, its going to create confusion and create trouble for workers, etc. Sometimes you gotta use a Mexican accent, esp. when the workers don't speak enough English to "get" what you say


Yeah, Joshie, because they don't have the mental capacity to understand you unless you throw in a mangled "eh chico" at the end of your order. Otherwise their little brains would be confused.

And I did address your other point. PoC are telling you that they don't want to you do that. They don't want you to put on an fake accent when you read their poems and works of art. How is that white people can read Beowolf without an medieval German accent (or what they would think that would sound like) but they have to bring out their best "blues"/AAE affect when reading the Slave Narratives? And then, when PoC say that it is stupid, racist, and offensive to do that, would in the world would you still double down on the isn't-it-more-racist-if-I-don't-do-it bullshit?

#8 Kevin Irmiter

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Posted 12 October 2013 - 05:13 PM

View PostJoshie, on 09 October 2013 - 09:41 PM, said:

Andrew at least has never expressed this view, he simply has said in the past flat out, don't go around imitating accents that aren't yours or you are racist. He has never expressed the subtlety you mention in your post.


I know for a fact that he has expressed such subtlety IN THIS VERY EPISODE, where he mentioned that there was the one-line answer of "Yes it's racist" that he would use on the tumblr, but they were also having the more nuanced discussion. I noticed two parts where Andrew mentioned that imitating accents didn't always have to be racist. And because I am just that petty, I even went back and checked: he said it once at about 6:30, and once more at about 10:30.

Did you even properly listen to the podcast, or did you just skim through it assuming you would disagree with everything?

View PostJoshie, on 09 October 2013 - 09:41 PM, said:

Shariq didn't even address what I was saying, he went off into Lala Land on something I wasn't talking about at all. No one has actually said anything about subverting and overwriting the poetic voices of persons of colors/speakers of nondominant dialects/ethnolects who have chosen to expressly write in prose or verse of a different dialect with White English, or how it upsets the aesthetic of rhythm within the piece when that happens.


OK, I apologize. I guess my mind had just naturally followed the link Shariq made between your first paragraph (about "copying accents" to be understood in a Mexican restaurant) and the things you were saying here. But I still think you're missing the point. Yes, there are regional differences in dialects when we talk about things like reggae lyrics and poetry written by people with Jamaican accents, for example. You give examples where the words are literally different. No one would say you have to change the words to not be racist. It's when you start trying to copy the accent of "those people" that you can get into trouble. Now if you are a white person who genuinely loves the culture, and wants to be more authentic... hey, it's probably that patronizing liberal racism which is not the worst kind of racism in the world.

But it's still bad, so you should probably not do it. And you have to ask yourself, what is gained by trying to sound EXACTLY like the person who wrote it? OK, so you need to say local expressions or slang if they are literally part of the text, and you need to adjust your rhythm to fit the song if they are lyrics and you're performing or singing along. But besides that, what reason is there to not use your own normal way of speech?

View PostShariq Torres, on 11 October 2013 - 08:26 AM, said:

They don't want you to put on an fake accent when you read their poems and works of art. How is that white people can read Beowolf without an medieval German accent (or what they would think that would sound like) but they have to bring out their best "blues"/AAE affect when reading the Slave Narratives? And then, when PoC say that it is stupid, racist, and offensive to do that, would in the world would you still double down on the isn't-it-more-racist-if-I-don't-do-it bullshit?


A little nitpick: believe me, there are plenty of pretentious white people out there who like to try and read Beowulf in what they think is an "Old English" accent. But there is still a patronizing quality to the way people do it when they read things like slave narratives, especially when you can tell they're just people who are completely uneducated about the way the author really would have talked, and are just repeating tired old stereotypes. Even if they are educated, and going out of their way to make it as authentic as possible, they are still kinda racist and very very wack.

#9 pfchangs

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Posted 14 October 2013 - 09:35 PM

"you love to lie" lolololol