I'm having trouble commenting on blogs lately. Not sure if it's a technological issue on my end or a software issue on Blogger's, but it's a problem. Especially today when I read a particularly enlightening post on my pal West's blog and want to talk about it. So here I am.
West says, "A number of Black Americans are offended by a non-Black person referring to any Black person as 'articulate.' According to many, it is an example of those back-handed compliments to which Chris Rock so humorously, but indelicately refers: '[Saying an educated man] speaks so well isn't a compliment. "Speaks so well" is some $#!+ you say about a retarded person... that can TALK!'
"So, many Blacks see it as an insult and many whites see it as a compliment. Tony Cox, of NPR's 'African-American RoundTable,' (read or listen here) refers to this difference of interpretation as 'a cultural and linguistic divide.' He compares it to the statement from times past, 'You're a credit to your race.'"
West is an intelligent and thoughtful person (compared to anyone) and he doesn't take offense at the statement in general, but I think back on the times that I've paid that "compliment" -- even in my head; unspoken -- and if I'm honest, I have to admit that the parenthetical follow up to "He's articulate" is "for a Black guy." Yes, I've known a lot of African Americans who aren't articulate or "well-spoken," but why does that make it so worthy of notice when I meet one who is? I know a lot of White folks who don't speak well either, but I'm not as surprised when I meet one who does. It's a subtle form of racism, but it's there and I appreciate West's post for pointing it out so that I can be aware of it and work on eliminating it.
Just another reason why his blog is so worth reading.