Over the course of the past few weeks, significant shade has been thrown at Ben Crump, the attorney for Trayvon Martin's family. Attorney Crump is not a natural orator and his Southern seeps into every single (and sometimes extra) syllable. Many have assumed that because his speech is so very "Urban Floridian" that this somehow reflects his legal prowess and/or brain power. It's both an insult and a mistake to assume this.
I don't know how many of you heard Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith, Magic Johnson or Deion Sanders (countless others) back in the day before the professional speech coaches got hold of them. Not. Pretty. I mention this to say that Mr. Crump requires a speech coach or a smoother spokesperson and nothing more. I'll admit when I first heard Mr. Crump, I longed for the silver-tongued effervescence of Johnnie Cochran. And then I went and looked up brother Crump's bio.
He has quite the track record of impressive wins and tackling improbable causes and coming out on top. He has worked hand in hand with Rev Al, Rev Jesse and other activists to shine light on racial injustice. He is considered a bright and talented legal mind with a shimmering future ahead. And he wears a navy suit rather well. (Sorry, just a sidebar. Moving on...)
As a child of the South, I grew up amongst a variety of accents and dialects. My mother speaks a very crisp combination of polished Baltimoran and syrupy Georgian. My father spoke British West Indian. I went to private school for the first 10 years of education so my Texan only comes out with I'm tired, tipsy or around a whole lot of twanging.
I distinctly remember in my teens being on a group trip to New York where the other teens asked us, "So do you have horses and stuff? You sound like you live on a ranch." And they were stunned when we wiped the floor with them at the academic decathlon.
Don't let the accent fool you.
I will admit that I cringe (we were having this discussion on Twitter the other day) when I hear folks adding an R (or an R-uh) in where none sat previously. What is an uRsher board? Or when someone adds an extra "ed" to the end of a conjugated verb "I loveded you, girl!" Hearing the English language mangled unapologetically sets my teeth on edge but I'd never mistake it for lack of intelligence. Lack of polish? Yes. Naivete that "others" won't hear that mangled speech and be dismissive? Yes.
So I do see both sides. As a Southerner, I get how a pronounced accent tends to send a certain message. As a Southerner who was drilled on "proper" speech patterns and enunciation, it's a sore point when others in the public eye don't do the same. But I can't shade a man for his diction when his dedication and delivery of service are so on point.
Just had to share. Thoughts, comments, insights?