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Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

accents, stereotypes, and get over it

y'allAt my niece’s wedding this past weekend, we all lapsed into Okie-speak: y’all, huh?, yep, et al. We were all family, and no one was judging us.

Which isn’t the case lots of times. Saying just y’all in a meeting will — I guarantee you — garner more  raised eyebrows than a profanity. For some folks, apparently, y’all is like wearing a sign on your back that says “I’m stupid!” Or so I gather from my own experience, which friends assure me is NOT isolated.

I shared this in the weekly writing workshop I lead, and each of us had our own anecdote (and more than one!) about being dismissed as ‘dumb Okies.’ Since there are several multiply degreed writers in any of my workshops, I find this telling.

A few years ago, I had a brilliant student from down around Durant, OK (Okies know to pronounce it DOO-rant). K spoke w/ the ubiquitous southwestern Okie accent — we all know it (and yep — WE can tease each other about it; WE aren’t outsiders). You know, like Boomhauer on King of the Hill?

K’s papers were exemplars of elegant logic — well-researched & well-written. When I told him how much I appreciated his keen mind, he hemmed & hawed, flustered. And then shared: Most folks thank Ah’m an idjit cuz of muh aksent.

I was furious. Not at K, obviously, but at a culture — a world — that teaches a young man to internalise bad appraisals of his worth because of where  he learns to speak?? GET OVER IT!

Instead of fuming, I told K what I offer to all of us: I may speak with an accent, but I don’t think with one. NOT that it would matter to me if we did!

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