Revealing racism based on accent
Ksenia Egorova was working at Princess Cruises check-in area as a customer service ambassador when a passenger demanded to know where her accent was from. At first, he got frustrated that he could not pronounce her name. As their altercation progressed, his comments became more and more based on where she’s from. “He was American – I had to ask for his passport – and he started asking me all these questions, in a mean way,” Egorova said. He was also insisting on talking with an American representative. Apparently, that man was tired by the time he reached Ksenia`s desk. He had already passed security and USA customs and was about to board the ship. His frustration led to “hidden racism”, Egorova claimed. She explains this term as people reveal their hidden racist when they are angry and want to take it on someone. Ksenia also believes that a low level of education may influence racist remarks as well. If individuals are not well-educated and especially don’t travel a lot, they are not familiar with the controversy of the world. They might have never talked to anyone from a different race.
I too have the first-hand experience. I was approached by a man at the luggage area of Vancouver International Airport. He was wondering where he could find his bag. I asked him a couple of questions which would give me more insights like his flight number and if he was making any connections. By his answers I found out that he didn’t need to pick up his bags – they were transferred to his final destination. He started yelling at me saying that six people had already told him the same, while he had been provided with a completely different information in London. Moreover, he made a hateful comment,”Your accent is so strong – I can’t even understand you.”
Molly Babel, one of the authors of a study called “Expectations and Speech Intelligibility” done by the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, made a powerful statement, “Saying someone has a strong accent is actually different from having a hard time understanding what someone is saying.” In this research, contributors heard a simple sentence like “the house has a nice garden” recorded by 12 Canadian English persons while shown images of an actual speaker. Individuals claimed that it was harder to understand Chinese Canadians compare to Caucasian ones, but only because they knew how those people looked like. “In other words, participants found the sentences less accented and more intelligible when they knew the speaker was white”, researchers report.
There is one more impressive study regarding racism based on accent. John Baugh, Ph.D., the Margaret Bush Wilson professor and director of African and African-American Studies in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, invented the term “linguistic profiling”. There were hundreds of test phone calls done by participants with different accents. John found out that “many people made racist, snap judgments about callers with diverse dialects.” In addition, it led to a rejection of an apartment view arrangement or job interview meeting if a person had a different manner of pronunciation. “Those who sound white get the appointment,” Baugh said.
According to all these facts, it is clear that racism can be dangerous. It leads to psychical assaults, hate crimes, bullying and even such extreme forms of terrorism and genocide. Besides that, there is a proof that racism causes mental health problems. There was a Dutch study conducted with 4076 people who reported to be suffering from any form of racism. They were twice as likely to develop psychotic episodes such as delusions and hallucinations in the following three years after being chronically exposed to discrimination. The catchy part is that none of them had a history of psychosis.
Therefore, the main question is – what can be done to overcome racism. Professor Priscilla Dass-Brailsford, who is a psychologist at Georgetown University and Chicago School of Professional Psychology, believes that the key to fighting racism is in having more discussions. “There has to be more engagement and people need to talk to each other”, she explained in her interview to HuffingtonPost. American activist Sean R. Shealy says that in order to deal with the issue people have to obtain the higher mind. “We need to judge each other on the content of our character…”, he writes in his article “How to overcome racism if you are racist – and we are all racist”. Therefore, the best way is to be aware of the problem and be open to a dialogue – interact more with those who are from different cultures and speak other languages.
To sum up, as Hannah Leach, BA in English Language and Linguistics, said in her blog, “Someone’s accent is an integral part of who they are, and criticizing it is kind of a dick move, wrapped up in long-standing classicism. So don’t! Judge people on what they say, not how they say it.”