Alex (yakshaver) wrote,
Alex
yakshaver

Judging people by assonances

Years ago, when I was first in Boston, I knew a Black girl who also happened to be British. I used to get a certain wry pleasure out of watching people's faces when they first heard her speak. We're tribal animals, of course, and all of us make unconscious assumptions about others, even after the briefest glance. And a British accent will usually elevate an American's estimation of someone a notch.

In Sarah's case, opening her mouth instantly moved her up at least two notches.

Today I glanced up to see an Asian woman walking toward me on the sidewalk who would not have looked out of place among my social peers. Then, as she walked past, she spoke to her friend.

In a Revere accent.

I did much the same double-take Sarah used to cause --- but with the polarity reversed. And noticed thereby things I might never have noticed had she spoken with the Educated-American accent--- things I don't think I'd have noticed in that case even if we'd had an actual interaction (say, one of us asking the other for directions). Her hair had a slightly lacquered look; her jacket was fake leather---and a bit run-down at that.

No two ways about it: that's prejudice, and I should feel worse about it than I do. Especially after I spent my first year at my old job disrespecting the woman in Accounting who turned out to be one of my best & smartest colleagues there because of her Revere accent.

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