People have always told me that I talk white. I have a soft voice and I pronounce my words in full, including the ‘ing’s’ in a word. I always denied it. It was such a ridiculous statement. I know I was just being myself and couldn’t help how I spoke. I was speaking proper English. This is how people who know English are supposed to speak.
I thought about how people ask other people who speak like this, “Why do you talk/act so proper?” My own father asked me that once. We think that’s us asking, “Why are you talking and acting so white?” But, actually, it’s us asking, “Why are you speaking and acting so correctly. Because that’s what the word, “proper”, means; doing something correctly.
Apparently, many people are uncomfortable with black people speaking proper English and “acting” proper. I was never sure why. I thought there was no such thing as talking/acting white or talking/acting black. How can anyone act a color? I never knew where people got that from. It always sounded racist and stereotypical; basically encouraging black people to act and speak like they don’t know how.
But, one day, recently, I was sitting on my couch watching Alfonso Ribeiro on AFV (America’s Funniest Home Videos). I watched how he spoke and everything. Suddenly, it popped into my head, ‘There really IS a such thing as acting white!’
I figured this out, not as a criticism of how Alfonso Ribeiro acted and spoke on the show, but because watching him made me think of the history of black people in this country. It made me realize that there is a such thing as acting white. But it is of no fault of our own.
Remember, black people, our original language(s), culture(s), and custom(s) were lost hundreds of years ago during slavery. We were forced to forget everything about ourselves and have been forbidden from reading and writing for many, many years. When we finally did get the opportunity to learn how to read and write, we adopted the English language and the “American” way of living and behaving, which is the white, European way.
Europeans, a.k.a. white people, were the people who were running the country back then and they’re still running the country today. Because of this, there is a such thing as acting white, but there is no such thing as acting black here. It’s either you speak and act to their standards or you’re the negatively stereotypical black person: ghetto, uneducated, unruly, violent, unintelligent, etc.
What we classify as “talking/acting black” is not really talking/acting black at all. It’s just a nonstandard version of the standard European way of talking and acting.
I now believe that, whether people know it or not, that “There is no such thing as acting white” and “You can’t act a color” are lies created and used to hide and sugar coat the fact that white people stole, stripped, and, later, replaced our original languages, cultures, and customs. Until we learn what our original languages, cultures, and customs were, we will always be speaking and acting as something we’re not.