Friday, March 30, 2012

#PostRacismFAIL: "You don't sound black"


I work for a global human resources and recruiting company. Mid-size and large companies outsource their talent acquisition so that in essence, we are their virtual recruiting department. (Hence all the yoga pants references) The account I'm currently assigned to is a mid-size software company in the process of growing to the next level. It means they are profitable and generally have bought into the recruiting model we've sold them. It also means that they have some small company tendencies still lurking about.

The other day I was on a conference call with an executive from Scotland and a Human Resources rep from New Jersey. We were discussing an opening for the Chicago office. After drilling through the requirements/must haves/like to haves, the HR rep indicated that it would be great for diversity targets if we could hire a minority female into the role.

The exec asked, "Michele, do we know any minorities in HR or recruiting who can assist with this?"

I pressed the mute button so my snort of laughter would not be audible and then I un-muted and answered, "Besides me, you mean?"

**awkward silence**

The HR rep piped up, "Michele, are you some kind of black?" (Yes, the HR rep asked this)

I rolled my eyes, "I'm all kinds of black."

The Scotsman said, "But Michele isn't a black name, is it?"

A black name?! Deep sigh. "Well it's my name and I'm black so..."

HR rep, "You don't really sound black to me."

Now I'm fed up, "What exactly does black sound like?"

**awkward silence**

The Scotsman tried to save the day, "My apologies. I do so hope you're not offended."

"Why would I be offended about being black? I've been this way all my life." Yep, at that point I was enjoying their discomfort.

Scotsman, "Perhaps we should move on."

Me, "Certainly."

It was obvious that they were stunned to find out I was black. So I got to thinking - maybe I should drop some more colorful colloquialisms into my every day lexicon? A few "whaddup, whaddups" or perhaps I could enter the conference call with a rap "Yes, yes ya'll. I must confess ya'll. My name's Michele, I'm here to tell I'm blackity-black ya'll" - whatcha think?

No? Mayhaps I should play entry music upon my arrival to the call. I was thinking the processional music from Coming to America?

Or maybe the first few 30 seconds of the Circle of Life from The Lion King?


Gotta keep it classy while still blacking it up. :-/

BougieLand, do we even want to get into how many instances of post-racism FAIL they stumbld into here? Need we discuss just WTH a "black name" is? Don't get me started on the "sounding black" of it all? Have you ever been "racially misidentified" on the phone? How did you handle it? Thoughts, comments, insights?

117 comments:

Silk said...

I can't tell you how many times in the past 24 years I've gotten the double-take after finally meeting a phone contact face to face. Then I'm usually asked "Where are you from?"

"Here." (I grew up two miles away)

*more confused looks*

happinessisme said...

Nah, the worst is when black people drink the kool-aid. I was on a date with a dude, standing on the train he asks me,  " Do you think I talk white?" I hate when people say that because it implies that white people are only supposed to sound educated. Plus, we were standing right in front of a white girl who heard him. Can't have people thinking I think like that. 

Brendadc said...

I've had my share of episodes. The one that sticks out is when the mother of a then coworker (who's black) called the job and spoke to me. Later, she told her son that she called the job and spoke to a white girl. Umm...I'm not white. I get a lot of "you talk white." What is talking white? I didn't realize that speaking proper English was something only white people can do. 

Michele Matthews said...

I can't believe this post actually happened in 2012.

I've never been told my name wasn't black, but when I first met my ex inlaws over the phone, the first question they asked my ex-husband was "Is she white?"

Nicole said...

First of all, they have some serious problems if the HR rep, of all people, says stuff like that. I'm fairly certain all HR folks have undergone or even led diversity training of some sort a time or two in their professional lives. An HR rep should know better than that.

Second, you handled that situation beautifully. I probably would have gotten all flustered and defensive.

 

Silk said...

Yes, great job with the mute button. I'm sure they would have heard me snort.

thinklikeRiley said...

What's worse is when black people tell you that you're not sounding black enough. (meaning too white)
In the music industry, there's this whole street cred vs conference room ready vibe. People get annoyed that I have both. That being said...

Riley fittin' ta rock dat Coming to America joint ev'ry time he walk in the conference room. Who wanna throw roses at my feet?

keishabrown said...

Yes, yes ya'll. I must confess ya'll. My name's Michele, I'm here to tell I'm blackity-black ya'll" <- END SCENE. LMFAOOOO
So. wait. Is the FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATE OF AMERICA NOT BLACK EITHER??? 

*kicks all of the rocks. 

Tiffany Nicole said...

This concept of "post-racial" is such a farce! My students and I were having this conversation and when school students can give the "what the ?? who made up that ish" look then you know it carries no weight. They see right through the lies. I am at the point where racial issues honestly don't shock me anymore. What shocks me is how we have accepted it as norm and expectation....

taut_7 said...

can't say that i've ever been misidentified over the phone. its not that i use a lot of slang but with a name like Tunde its kind of hard to be mistaken for anything other than black. i hate when people say well you speak so well or i didn't know you were that smart. yes another post doc said this to me. as if they're just handing out phds. -_-

md_KG said...

It's such a shame when you experience things like this because you realize just how deep the ignorance is with a lot of people. Pair that with the automatic low expectations that people have of black folks and it's not a pretty combination.

That HR rep needs some serious mind reorientation. You can't work in such a department and be that clueless almost to the point of being callous.

SpkTruth2Pwr said...

Personally, if you are going to use an intro song, I think it should be Wacka Flocka.  Just get on the call and say, "O Let's Do It" (pronounced Eau Le Doet)

NY2VA said...

"Michele, are you some kind of black?" (Yes, the HR rep asked this)
I rolled my eyes, "I'm all kinds of black."

I was talking with one of my older Sorors, who is an executive staff member in my school system,  about my career plans we talked at length about code switching.  It is simply what we do because we must. We speak in a higher register, we make sure we don't use our hands too much, we enunciate clearly... all of that to make folks feel comfortable even though we have degrees and certifications and whatnot.  We dare not speak colloquially because that scares people; however, sometimes those same folks you've been switching for don't quite understand that you aren't the one to fcuk with until you speak in a lower register, talk with your hands, lean forward in your and shoot a mean side-eye.

In the words of my wise Soror, "I can wear my pearls, but I can get down."

Jasmin said...

People have mistaken me for white on the phone fornforever, but it's only been since this Obama post-racial mess popped up that people have started physically identifying me as non-black.

<--------------- Really doe?

Jasmin said...

The arrow was supposed to point to my avatar. Trust, I'm definitely unambiguously black.

Mina B. said...

I'm black (all kinds of it ;) I have an Indian name and I speak to people from the UK on the phone all day. I get mislabeled all the time but I will say that in my experience, folk from the UK are way more willing to just bluntly discuss your race over the phone (they seem very curious) but in the US it comes up when someone is letting their assumptions/biases hang out (Oh...you don't sound black -__-) 

I've had someone (from London) ask in that proper sounding british accent..."Are you a sista? Cause I like black people"  I didn't even have a comeback for that one! 

blackprofessor said...

 Yes, yes ya'll. I must confess ya'll. My name's Michele, I'm here to tell I'm blackity-black ya'll - LMAO!!! 

I don't usually get misidentified on the phone but folks who meet me on paper assume I am white.  The same stupid drama occurs when we meet in person. 

Pure Choco said...

Last week, we were in a meeting and they started talking about cooking. Fried chicken in particular. One chick turns to me and asks "What's your best fried chicken recipe?" Really? I'm supposed to be the expert on fried chicken because I'm black? I thought about and then I said - Popeye's drive in.   Everyone laughed nervously and we moved on.

Jesse said...

The rap doe...
**DEAD**

Jubi The Great said...

I have a Negro-ish name, so there's no hiding that I'm Black if you see my name. I work in a white male dominated field (I'm a chemist) and I'm always tickled by the lengths folks go through to describe me without saying I'm Black. Like come on yall, I'm the only Black professional on the site (*sigh*) and 1 of 2 women on the technical team. It's ok to describe me as Black, I promise I won't mind.

md_KG said...

The name thing is a whole other can of worms. Once white people encounter non-Anglo-Saxon names, it's like their brains just shut down and all good sense escapes. Then come the stupid and ignorant questions about your country of origin and how their friend's cousin's uncle's sister visited X African country.  What the hell does that have to do with you butchering my name or where I'm from?

ShawnSoze said...

Last month -
VP: "We need a minority to go sell this to those people" (those people?)
SVP: "Send Shawn"
VP: "Shawn's not black, he's like us."
SVP: "He's black enough"

They didn't realize I was standing outside the door. So pleased I'm just black enough to be okay.
#PostRacialFAIL fo' sho'

La said...

Oh, look. My life. :-/ I work for a large, multinational cable network in the sports division, aka 2 industries where it is still acceptable if not preferable that everyone be white and male. And at least if you HAVE to be a woman *big groan* be white. The vast majority of the people I work with are in other cities and I communicate with them solely thru phone and email. I always enjoy the look of shock on their faces when they finally meet me and are like, "You're (insert my very "white sounding" government name here)?!" I’m not sure what “sounding white” is, but apparently I fit the bill.
For the record, I totally code switch at work. I am black AND was raised in Atlanta. I don’t sound like that in real life, lol.

CaliGirlED said...

*pauses in the middle of reading the post* O_O!!!  "Michele, are you some kind of black?"...GTEFOH

Monica said...

***facepalm***

La said...

"Are you a sista? Cause I like black people"

LOL! I find this to be true of quite a few British people I've encountered at work. They are far more comfortable discussing race... and quite a bit less priviledged. I had a convo once with a guy who asked something that was borderline racist. I told him so and why. His response? Not the go to American defensive strategy "but I have black friends." He simply said, "That you for teaching me that. I never would have known otherwise."

CaliGirlED said...

 Love this!!!

Monica said...

If I had a dollar for every time someone said I sounded educated or articulate, or faced an inquiry about my background, I'd be so paid. I was once hired as a telemarketer as the manager gleefully stated he could place me on accounts in the suburbs because I sounded "white." Ugh.

It never ends.

Jennifer said...

Lawd, they talk about Michelle O's behind enough as it is... can you imagine the Fox News comments if she had an 'black' name too??

CaliGirlED said...

 I.can't.even.find.words...I literally sat here and heard that conversation in my head. Just wow!

GrownAzzMan said...

This is so funny and so real. In the year of our lord 2012 I am still amused at the surprised looks I often get when I arrive for face-to-face meetings with people who I have only dealt with by phone. They knew I was coming but the didn't expect me.

P.S. I'm gonna need that rap up on youtube stat...LOL

Grace said...

 I get "Where are your people from?" When I answer "Portland" they get irritated. "No, before that!"
Then I elaborate "West Indies" and get "Oh,  I knew if was something!"
(really?)

CaliGirlED said...

I don't recall ever being mistaken for not being Black over the phone. Even when I code switch I think my low register just says "I'm Black". I do try to speak in a higher range as not to sound intimidating, but not so high that I sound like I'm mocking the person I'm talking to. It's a process! What I mostly get though is my on the job performance which shocks some people because they "assumed" that I have average skills. I once calculated a commission really quick in my head, and my broker just looked at me in amazement as he looked up from his calculator with a number that was pretty close to my estimate. *shrugs*

blackprofessor said...

Shawn, I will trade places with you.  I interviewed at a big time university but wasn't hired because I wasn't black enough since I didn't use ebonics....

GrownAzzMan said...

D E A D at Popeye's drive in....LOL

keishabrown said...

NOTHING is worse than when Black people accuse you of acting/talking/dressing 'White'. 
ugh.

keishabrown said...

what in the name of the all of the WHATS??? 
sigh.
*looks at your avi...you aren't black? 

TrulyPC said...

ROFL!  I absolutely love the entry music idea.  

I have been told that I didn't sound black too many times and an HR rep in TX told me that after reviewing my resume and seeing my name and my alma mater that they all assumed that I was white.  Yes,  in a formal face-to-face interview.   I must admit that I did enjoy her discomfort when I found a way to remain composed when I said "well I do have white in the family".
More than I hate white people subscribing to it I hate when Black people subscribe to that sounding black nonsense.

bashowell said...

Lol I feel you on the sciences and being black.  I had one supervisor who tried every which way to not say I was black and she came out with "colored". 

bashowell said...

I get asked that a lot.  "Where are your people from?" Me: Here.  "Are you sure?"

bashowell said...

I have a "regular" sounding first name, a Germanic last name (yassa massa), and a non-accent acquired from my military brat mother.  I've come to greatly enjoy people's discomfort when faced with the unexpected.  See also: when they find out I'm NOT the secretary.

CaliGirlED said...

 Add to that I'm sure your stature leaves them feeling a bit intimidated! LOL

Leon X said...

As a sometimes actor, I understand the "Articulate Speaking Black Person" struggle. It should also be noted that The Scotsman more than likely got his ideas on how Black people speak from our entertainment.

Side Note: Thank you to all who put me over the one thousand "Likes" threshold. I am truly humbled.

J B said...

My comments disappeared.  :(

In my 24 years at work, I still get the double-take when meeting people for the first time face to face after several phone conversations.

Confused person: "So, where are you from?"
Me: "Here" (I grew up 2 miles from work)
*more confusion*

I've been asked several times by Black Americans if I'm from England (?)  One guy said "You pronounce every letter in every word, don't you?"  Well, that's what I was taught.  Except for the silent ones...

CaliGirlED said...

"Except for the silent ones..." LOL

J B said...

 In some countries, my first name is male, and my last name is English.  In Engineering school, that confused a lot of professors as they took roll....

DB said...

How often do hiring managers discount certain resumes because of ethnic sounding names and how often are hiring managers looking to hire a diversity candidate?

CaliGirlED said...

 O_O

ishtar_79 said...

The Lion King is still the best feature length cartoon Disney has ever made, IMO.   I'm now king thinking about skipping happy hour so I can watch Coming to America.  I miss THAT Eddie Murphy.

Anyway, casual racism is annoying and it's tiring to deal with.  I'm sure I've been misidentified because I couldn't get nary an interview with my "black" name, but as soon as I dropped the foolishness my mother added to the end I got calls galore.  If I ever come about some children in my care I will give them the whitest names ever.  I just might go so far as to give them Irish first, middle, and last names just to cause some confusion.

Lady4Real said...

LMMFAO, can't hardly type. No comment, to much bullshiggity, I don't even know where to begin. Great way of handling it Chele.

Lady4Real said...

lmao, too much

CaliGirlED said...

On paper my name can be very misleading/confusing to anyone with knowledge of name origins. My first name is biblical and male (but pronounced differently) and my last name is of french or latin origin. They don't know if I'm a man or woman and/or a foreigner!

Lady4Real said...

I am a banker, I work in a predominately white area. When people call they are shocked when they see me behind my desk, I can't possibly be the girl they spoke to over the phone and they would like the manager. "I am the Assistant Manager, the manager is out, you are stuck with my black ass" is what runs across my mind but instead I smile and welcome them to my desk. Post-racial my ass. I work in a predominately white area and live in one. The questions my co-workers and customers ask me drive me up a wall, I am not an animal in a zoo, I am not an endangered species. I am a human being with more mellanin, gesh.

OneChele said...

Ir really depends. Usually, I send over a resume with a summary so that they are sold ont he candidate before reading the resume. And diversity targets are completely dependent on how "cultural sensitive" the company is or whether they have government business which generally requires at least an attempt at diversity.

nylse said...

nylse is not my real name - my real name is ambiguous and so i've gotten responses similar to yours; and i  have an accent (i've been told i sound irish - which totally cracks me up!)
when these things happen, i'm more amused than angry (perhaps i get angry a couple of hours later).
whoever coined the term postracial was being awfully hopeful; we may be post racial in the sense that segregation is no longer legal, but racism persists.  race  is a component of who we are - so to a certain degree racism will always exist. people have expectations based on race and i love defying those expectations.

Mr. Skyywalker said...

Thanks, now that Coming to America is stuck in my head.

EvolvingElle said...

Girl, THIS is the story of my life!!!  If I didn't have a "Black" name (one of the Jackson sisters, not Rebbie or Janet), I think I would fool more people.  I can't tell you how many times I have heard, "You sound like a white girl." -_-  In any event, do you.  And one thing I have learned is that you will always have your racist/racially insensitive people.  Just pray for 'em. "Ya heard?!" (Sorry, I couldn't help it!)

Sasha in Stilettos said...

Trivia - Besides Africa what do these two movies (Lion King & Coming to America) have in common?

Jason P said...

 James Earl Jones.

Jason P said...

 WTH is "black enough"?

Jessica Tabbert said...

I could write a  several page essay on this subject. My mother is a Mauritian immigrant, my father was an African-American veteran. I am intentionally well spoken, and I haven't had to code switch much since I left Florida. Phone conversations always lead to surprised faces in person. I have been told I am the best of both worlds; educated, well spoke Black woman with the power to be ghetto if the need arises. As much as I know that is supposed to be a compliment, I only took it as an attempt to put women of color in a box. It probably doesn't help that I am currently married to a White man and I am the proud mother to  four multiracial offspring. Minds are blown! Is it bad that I enjoy the discomfort others experience when they are met with sarcasm in the face of their own ignorance?


Kudos to you, Chele. You handled it well. And if I may offer a suggestion for entry music, I vote you play something from the 90's R&B catalog. Anything from En Vogue or the late Whitney Houston should suffice. I mean, since we're going with stereotypes and all. ;-) 

Earthangel172 said...

Le Damn Sigh at the thought of it all. I haven't been misidentified over the phone but people don't expect me to be black solely because of my name.
 
My first name is Tamara and my last name is definitely not black. (If I didn't have a fear of identity theft, I would post it...LOL)

I work for a law firm that had no black paralegals, secretaries or attorneys until 2002ish. (Shout out to our firm for electing out FIRST black partner to the partnership in 2011, who just happens to be an Alpha also!)

Anyway, most of the black folks work in the mailroom with the exception of the token black person in accounting and the IT department. So imagine my surprise when I came in for my interview and the interviewer was clearly expecting a white person based on my name and resume. Oh did I mention that I had microbraids in too? (Don't judge me; my hair was tasteful) LOL

Let's just say that it was a memorable interview and I've been here for 10 years now but I'm still the only black legal secretary.

Needless to say, I have had to defend my blackness or lack thereof ever since. It's not easy when people judge you based on stereotypes, especially those who have little to no experience black people.

tishatweets said...

In undergrad I worked for a bank in the home loan department. Generally people who wanted a HELOC. At that point (mid 90's) , I wasn't speaking to a lot of people who look like us. That said to say, they ALWAYS assumed I was white. And when presented with my given name (which is one of those all-kindsa-fake-African-made-up-in-the-late-70s names) they'd be perplexed. "Are you Russian? What about Irish?" Never occurred to them that I could be just regular run of the mill Black. From that time to this, I've been told often that I "sound white" on the phone--and if not told outright it's definitely implied. Often. It's worse when it comes from people who look like me (though I joke about it with my friends when THEY do it; it's in-house, it's different) because now it's assumed that I've done some "selling out" of some sort, or have ceased  to "be real." 
 
Whatevs.

Lady Ngo said...

I have been misidentified because of my name (i guess maybe my voice added to the confusion as well). My first name is Jennifer, which apparently is a white girl name, and my last name looks "french" so i've been told. So quite a few jobs/schools have assumed i was a white french woman. Then when they meet me, they assume i'm Haitian (because Haiti is the only place where there are black people that speak french of course *rolls eyes*) which leads to the explanation that there is absolutely nothing french about me and i'm actually nigerian which you can imagine almost always leads to a whole other set of bullskittles...

Earthangel172 said...

"What I mostly get though is my on the job performance which shocks some people because they "assumed" that I have average skills."

I can totally relate to this!

tishatweets said...

I'on find your name to be Negro-ish. I would think Southern-country, first.

Earthangel172 said...

"those people" "he's black enough"

the hayle?!!

Earthangel172 said...

Sidenote: I'm not Nigerian but I am hell bent on giving my future children Igbo names. There's nothing like having a name with a meaning behind it.

C Nelson said...

 You may want to quit trying to speak in that higher register; people with higher-pitched voices get rated higher on friendliness, but lower ones come across as more competent and trustworthy.  :)  Makes sense when you think about how caregivers talk to soothe a baby or small child; we instinctively lower our voices in pitch and volume, and speak a little more slowly as well.

Friday Foster said...

I was born in England & I have a completely Hebrew government name. It I had a dollar for every "Oh my Gawd, she's black look" I got I would have Bill Gates money.

C Nelson said...

Heh. I have had this experience many times, from taking roll the first day of school to every in-person interview I've ever had. My legal first name is Cindy, and aside from the alto pitch and truly confused accent (a childhood in the Caribbean capped by Florida, New York, and North Carolina will do that to you) there's nothing about my voice that "sounds Black." People expect a small white woman. How well they hide the shock when the tall, curvy Black one answers to her name (I hate the ones who call my name again as if I MUST have misheard them and surely there's someone else standing behind me waiting) tells me what kind of experience it's going to be.

Friday Foster said...

When I came to this country I was attacked by fellow sixth graders for not sounding black. I was totally bizarre to me because every black person I new had a West Indian or English accent. I took me a few years to wrap my head around it but by high school I was quite ready to cuss a fool out with my British/New York if the came at me with that nonsense whether they were black or white.  

Bryan Anthony said...

This is like when someone let it slip that they thought I was hired because the company needed more "black IT guys" - nice. Now I'm running the department. Put that in your post racial stew and let it simmer.

Lady Ngo said...

LOL, thats cool, so long as you pronounce the name right. I love my name and i used to hate when someone would roll up on me and say "Oh your name is Ngozi. I know a girl with that name except she pronounces it *blah blah blah*"

OneChele said...

Lest our non-Black dwellers of BnB feel left out, I can also share that I regularly get the "you don't sound Southern" comment. All Southerners sound alike, do we? 

I feel a t-shirt coming on - I Sound Like Me... Deal with IT

Only1DivaC said...

Now see, I just can't with this. I got stuck reading "...go sell this to those people"

Diana said...

 "Are you sure you're from Georgia? You don't sound like it"
Why would I lie?

*orders t-shirt in pink, size S/M*

CaliGirlED said...

Let me be more specific: The natural tone of my voice is more "tenor" in nature, so when I say a higher range/register, I'm referring to what could be considered "alto". The only time I speak in a "soprano" or high pitched voice is when I'm really excited. My voice tends to sound either too sexy too mellow, or sometimes even too serious, and is often misunderstood. So for me a higher register is not what you inferred, but in fact one that is more competent and trustworthy.

Suebhoney1125 said...

I laughed when I read this post! It happens to me all the time. My name is Susan so I always got the " I don't know too many black girls named Susan" comment.  Oh really? ( there were 3 Susan's in my graduating class including me in high school-an all black high school so yes, there are black girls named Susan-my grandmother's name was Susie and I was named after her-imagine that lol).  I've gotten the wide eyed shock look on faces when I've gone to interview for jobs because my name doesn't match what they think my face should look like or my voicemail at work and personal doesn't sound like how people think I should look.  I grew up in the North, but all my family is South and my cousins used to tease me  that I talked "proper", but got a serious attitude when I'd reply "No, I speak correct English!"

mojitochica said...

Hah "racially misidentified" is the story of my professional life, though I've never been misidentified over the phone just on paper.  I've stopped counting the number of time folks look at everything in the room other than me looking for the interviewee -_-  I find it to be a nice to test to see how blatantly surprised the receptionists and interviewers are.  It's also why I refuse to put my photo on LinkedIn.

rozb said...

You should have just busted out "...Let me clear my thoat! AHEM  AHEM AHEM!"

Penny said...

 Yes, it has happened to me.  My government name is very WASPish sounding, so I guess might be another reason.  I'll never forget talking to a client on the phone for months.  For some reason, she dropped in the office to drop something off to me.  I was a little late coming in that morning, so she was waiting by my office.  As I was coming down the aisle, someone said  to her"That's her" about me.  The look on her face was priceless.  She was a very pale white woman, and hard as it must have been, when she saw me, she turned even paler.   I was clearly not who she was expecting.   After that visit, out conversations were never the same, and I'd swear she asked that her business be reassigned to someone else. 

After working in HR for years, I am still not surprised at the ignorant things other HR people say. 

no comment said...

I agree my former manager is from Scotland she loves talking about race she can't comprehend race relations in this country past or present. 

no comment said...

I have a black/unique (not hood rich) first name (If you watch sports there is a female sportscaster whom I share a name with but it is her LAST name). I also have a black last name. I sometimes worry that my name is the reason why it always takes me such a LONG time to find a new gig (resume has been prof. done). 

SN- Ok don't kill me or try and take my black card but I think sometimes when people say "you sound white" they mean TONE not the Kings English. Plenty of black people speak the Kings English if you will but you can still tell based on their tone that they are black. Not that it matters either way ijs*runs from the post*

rhenewal said...

BOL at the idea of the Circle of Life as your intro. Onward to the comments!

rhenewal said...

Sort of related to this topic, has anyone noticed that white people are coming up with some more interesting names nowadays? One of my WASP friends is expecting her first child and is planning on naming her MaKhaila. I was like 0_O ?

rhenewal said...

I have a low register voice too. It's highly useful in my job, however, because of what CNelson referred to as seeming "more competent and trustworthy". My patients tend to feel calmed and comforted by my voice.

On the other hand, when I answer the phone at work in the middle of the night, oftentimes I encounter a short pause, followed by a confused "Is this the Nurses' Station?" I'm told I sound like a phone-sex operator :)

rhenewal said...

One guy said "You pronounce every letter in every word, don't you?"  Well, that's what I was taught.  Except for the silent ones...LOL. Truth. I was picked on as a teenager for enunciating overly well. And I regularly get asked what part of England I'm from. When I respond the Caribbean, they come with "You don't sound Jamaican." SMH.

GammasWorld said...

Recall, I work at a gig where some white employees are totally okay with letting it be known the boss is treating them like the black folk.  I gots nothing til I escape. 

CaliGirlED said...

LOL!!! I have to laugh (sometimes) when a person on the phone calls me Sir. Especially early in the morning.

CaliGirlED said...

Ha! The music instantly started playing in my head! LOL

CaliGirlED said...

I agree with you on the tone. It's usually a tale tale sign, but not always of course.

Brenda Kay said...

I can deal with clueless white people saying to me that I don't sound black. I get a great deal of pleasure watching their profound embarrassment as I ask them what does "sounding black" mean exactly. But it annoys the heck out of me, when a black person actually says this to me. 

Yofabulous said...

LOL, I've lived this experience before.  Usually someone makes an awkward joke to fill the awkward silence.

It was quite humorous to finally meet a candidate or hiring manager in person and see the look on their faces when they realize that THAT voice came out of THAT person.   They've usually been very diplomatic about their surprise (especially the men that flirted with me).  In my experience the really ignorant comments usually come from black people that I've interacted with.

Brittany Geneva said...

This is so unbelieveable...

1) Who says "SOME KIND of black"?!
2) Why was the guy from NEW JERSEY the one acting all shocked and crazy? You'd like the Scottish guy would have some reason to be a little more uninformed. Terrible!

Darryll said...

Brought me outta lurk mode with this one.  Unbelievable.  I get this every now and then.  People are stunned, as though Black folks, in 2012, can't be intelligent.  Mmm . . .

C Nelson said...

 I did that with my children. All joking aside, life is rough enough for black people's children; I thought hard about wanting them to fit in culturally, and then I thought about wanting them to succeed professionally ... and I looked at the "Jamal vs James" type studies, and decided not to put things I KNEW were roadblocks in their way. I named them Logan, Arianne, and Connor. Other black folks will just have to understand.

Leo the Yardie Chick said...

'Some kind of black'? *head tilt*

Leo the Yardie Chick said...

 I will always wonder why I don't hear more stories of black employees going straight postal at their workplaces, especially if this is what they deal with on a near-daily basis.

Leo the Yardie Chick said...

 "that people have started physically identifying me as non-black"

*looks at photo* Are they 99% blind?

rikyrah said...

this was funny.

been there.

done that.

Every Black person commenting and lurking has had the experience.

You've done everything ' over the phone'.

And then, you have to meet 'client', 'employer' in person.

ANd there is THE LOOK.

OMG, SHE'S BLACK!

what can you do but shrug.

rikyrah said...




The HR rep piped up, "Michele, are you some kind of black?" (Yes, the HR rep asked this)
This is a true roll your eyes moment.
 

JojoRaze said...

 I get what you mean on this, though.  I can usually tell by tone, especially a man, if he is black or not.  9 times out of 10 it is accurate, but that "surprise, you are black" struggle is real when you've done business with people over the phone.  I love that look on their face and laugh on the inside. 

WRT the processional music: Coming to America FTW!! That song is professional and black enough. LOL

Or you can always go with the classic from CB4 "I'm Black Y'all":
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WFY2kJ96jNY

JojoRaze said...

I will always wonder why I don't hear more stories of black employees going straight postal at their workplaces

It is because we've been black for longer than three days in these United States.  Hearing ignorant crap like that is the capstone of a rich life filled with the non-melanined throwing shade.

BlakjacQ said...

to be fair, i have received the "you don't sound black" from southern relatives and a sister workign the drive through at a KFC in Mobile, AL, so i can't really say that this one doesn't exist on both sides of the isle... maybe i just need to pump my Jay-z a lot louder?

Maxine Shaw said...

And Simba's mom was Queen Aoleon (sp?)

storm529 said...

Liking you because of the cool creativity of your name.  Pam Grier shout out.

storm529 said...

Sending you a private email for your advice as an HR professional. Unfortunately, I am a victim of the economic recession and was downsized in January.  I would like to know if you think my name is too ethnic. sounding.

Mykeia said...

Portland people...I feel you, it gets so old...I too am from Portland...

Evansaw said...

As I have worked on the phone with clients most of my life, I get the "you don't  sound Black" as least once a month.  The "What does Black sound like..." retort usually helps my level of satisfaction as I hear the poor sap sputtering all over themselves to recover.  Life is too short to let this get me down.  An old, old lady actually called me the n- word a few months ago. To my boss' credit, that client was banned for life.

Wambuig said...

Late to this party but... am a little indifferent to being mislabeled... as long as there is a majority there will always be a minority with that said, I get the "you don't look like your from Africa" -_- or "you sound British" and this esp. not looking like am from Africa has always been said to me by black people. Oh or what is my "real" name. Like I said am not offended am just indifferent...

Ericajane90 said...

I'm just so glad I'm not the only one this has ever happened to. This morning, I was on a conference call with a woman I'll be interning for in Tunisia and while warning me about sexual harrassment on the streets, she said, "I have no idea what you look like, but if you're blonde and blue eyed, you may have a problem."

I responded, "I'm black with an afro,so I'm sure it will be fine."
"Pardon me?" she said.

"I'm an African-American with curly fro hair; I've been told I look east african, so I'm sure I'll be fine."

"Oh well...[brief awkward jibberish before changing subject]".

I felt odd for even correcting her, but even more confused. Why would she assume I was white, or seem so flustered when I said I was black.  My father told me it's becaue I don't sound black...whatever that means. 

Drew said...

I grew up in a rural almost all white area,so I guess there is some lingering country accent there. I have been fortunate enough not to have to look for work in a very long time,but I have a European sounding first name and a last name more common amongst blacks.I am asked at least a few times a week where I am from by people of all colors.Happens so often that I am used to it,but it sometimes gets old. I have been told I that I am well spoken and sound professional.The rudest things that have ever been said to me were from other blacks. I have heard "you sound white" by several blacks.I have been asked by many older black women if I date a white woman. I assume its because they think I "act and sound white". I find that to be quite intrusive as they do not know me nor should they care who I date.One told me I "have no soul " and since I am quite sure I don't give off a demonic vibe,I assume she meant I don't act or talk"black" enough.I also had a black guy ask me once if I saw the NBA playoff game the night before.I replied no and that I didn't really watch the NBA.He then asked me if I watch NFL games. I love football but at the time wasn't watching it.When I replied no not really,he quickly asked me if I eat pig feet or "chitlins"! When I replied no,he proceeded to say "Man do you do anything black"??!! SMH

Drew said...

I mentioned not having to look for work because I have not seen reactions from people in interviews that may have been expecting me to be white.Sorry I rambled and still left something out!lol

One Chele said...

It's such a shame when you experience things like this because you realize just how deep the ignorance is with a lot of people. Pair that with the automatic low expectations that people have of black folks and it's not a pretty combination.

That HR rep needs some serious mind reorientation. You can't work in such a department and be that clueless almost to the point of being callous.

One Chele said...

Ir really depends. Usually, I send over a resume with a summary so that they are sold on the candidate before reading the resume. And diversity targets are completely dependent on how "culturally sensitive" the company is or whether they have government business which generally requires at least an attempt at diversity.

One Chele said...

 James Earl Jones.

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