No Offense But…

…that is the worst fucking phrase. Seriously. When someone says “no offense but…”, you know it’s going to be offensive. That’s no surprise to anyone. I’ve heard “no offense but…” so many times in my life. If you had to guess, what would you guess is the most common follow-up to “no offense but…” that I have heard? Nope. Still nope. I’m waiting… Try again.

“No offense but I think people with Southern accents sound stupid.” “No offense but as soon as I hear a Southern accent, I can’t help but think the person is dumb.” “No offense but I usually dismiss people with Southern accents.” Which was usually preceded by “You don’t sound like you’re from the South!” “No offense but I’m about to get redneck on your Yankee-ass!” is what I want to say. Or “You didn’t sound like an asshole, but here we are.” But usually, I do as we Southerners do, smile and say “Bless your heart, you should meet some of my closest friends.”Or “Well, I got rid of my accent because of the stereotype.”

Bless your inefficient heart.

Syntax, diction and accents hold the same power and privilege as skin color. And it drives me absolutely insane. In the U.S., the most revered and privileged accent is the “non-accent”. Parts of the North East and North West, some parts of California and the South West. Maybe Colorado and Utah. Otherwise, if you can immediately identify where a person was born as soon as they open their mouth, the judgement has been made. And for Southerners venturing outside of the South, it’s brutal. It’s even worse for a black Southerner who “sounds black”.

I am not a refined person, but before I moved to DC, I had a pronounced Southern accent and used endearing Southern colloquialisms (my favorites were “As_________ as all get out” “the butt crack of dawn” and “poor thing, bless her/his heart”). People would chuckle or smirk. They rarely took me seriously. It was really frustrating and not something that happened to me in my native North Carolina. As a result, I made a conscious effort to lose my accent. Except “y’all”. Y’all can pry “y’all” out of my cold, dead mouth. It comes back when I’m in NC or if I’m out partying, but otherwise it’s mostly gone. I still have a difficult time with people taking me seriously. Maybe it’s because I use humor to deescalate situations. It’s worth exploring in another post.

One of my smartest, acerbically funny friends has an extremely thick southern accent. Do I think he’s been discriminated against because of it? Yep. Another friend is an incredible artist. He captures as much emotion in one photograph. Thick southern accent, incredible talent.

Next time someone opens their mouth, listen to the content of what they say instead of focusing on the grammar and accent. That is all.


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