Series: White People Homework: Let’s talk (15)

In a Facebook group whose mission is to discuss anti-racism and equity issues (one of about a thousand of these groups) a member asked if it’s “okay to compliment an accent.”

My short answer was “no.” She was not satisfied with this. I told her I would research it further, but my first response comes from being an ELA/ELL teacher, and complimenting someone’s accent or dialect may make them feel singled out, “other” ness. It may discourage students who speak one or more languages other than English, and while they’re working on English will feel self-conscious.

And I am wondering why I am still so irked. Why wasn’t it enough for me to say “no?” The reason is because when a white person doesn’t get the answer they want, it takes a trajectory of time (confirmation bias strength) and friction (cognitive dissonance). She wanted to continue her behavior. I get it. I still like to tell students they’re amazing, beautiful, smart, loyal friends, courageous, and creative. When we’ve done pop-up toasts as a class and they need to speak to/about other students, it’s my honor to help them find ways to compliment one another that’s healthy, loving and profound.

Further Reading:

Note: even the word “microaggression” sounds like “small racism.” They’re aggressions.

What exactly is a microaggression?

This is from a person who works as a dialect coach: http://accenteraser.com/blog/4-things-people-with-accents-wished-you-knew/

“And maybe, just maybe I don’t want to tell you where I’m from because I might look at this country as being my home. I’ve worked hard to become part of your world. And I love it here.”

Please Know This Before You Comment on My Accent

Micro-aggressions in the Classroom: https://www.messiah.edu/download/downloads/id/921/Microaggressions_in_the_Classroom.pdf

YOU HAVE AN ACCENT, I HAVE AN ACCENT, EVERYBODY HAS AN ACCENT….by Larry Ferlazzo

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