I’ve been watching the Arizona immigration law debate with great interest over the past few months. While some people find nothing wrong with asking someone for proper identification, others would consider this racial profiling. It’s a highly controversial matter! But in all honesty, that is not a topic I think will be resolved in one blog post. But it did get me thinking about another stereotype and how it affects each and every one of us in the workplace. Accents. And I don’t mean the color of one particular wall in your workspace or the frilly little personal things you put on your desk. 😉 What I am referring to is the way you speak. Your inflection, your drawl (or lack thereof), your region specific dialect and mannerisms are all a part of what makes you uniquely you, but could they be holding you back in your job? The answer may surprise you!
Racial Profiling & Accent Discrimination: How It Affects Our Finances
I want to point out really quickly that I have personally been a victim of what we’re going to call regional profiling on several occasions. I am from Tennessee. Home of the University of Tennessee Volunteers and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. And one of the largest basketballs you’ve ever seen sits atop the Basketball Hall of Fame. We’ve got such notable folks here as Pat Head Summitt (Lady Vols Basketball Coach, Elvis (in spirit), Al Gore, Jr. (the inventor of such modern technologies as the Internet and Global Warming 😉 ) and Morgan Freeman. But what we are also famous for is having a large population of Good Ole’ Boys (commonly referred to as rednecks), some less than tolerant clubs like the KKK and the Hell’s Angels, and a rather large population of folks that believe that it’s all right to marry your cousin as long as you don’t tell anyone else about it.
The good news for Tennesseans is that we share a lot of these less than complementary stereotypes with a lot of southern states like Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, The Carolinas and even a little bit of Kentucky. One of the other things that we share is a slow, country drawl that blends a few vowel combinations into something most non-southern people can even come close to pronouncing properly as well as adding a few extra R’s to the standard 26 letter alphabet. I’ll be willing to bet that a bunch of you reading this have run into a few southerners and smiled a little to yourself after having a polite exchange, wondering whether or not we’ve even heard of rap music before.
Yes, time does have a habit of moving a little more slowly in the South and most of us certainly do enjoy sitting on the back porch on a hot summer night with a glass of cold iced tea in our hands and telling stories about the good old days, but that’s where the truth in the stereotypes stop. Contrary to popular belief, we comprehend things in the same manner as our northern and western counterparts, no matter what preconceived notions you might have about us.
Accents And Job Searches
While I have no problems accepting the fact that people automatically think that I am slow in most circumstances, what I do find is that my accent lends another layer of difficulty for me when it comes to landing a job. Not local jobs mind you. It’s kinda tough for folks that talk like me to discriminate against me on that basis. But, when it comes to landing a job with a company that either isn’t based in the South or has customers outside of this area, my accent makes it doubly tough to get that job no matter how qualified I am. Other accents such as foreign accents, no matter how charming they are in casual conversation, often land their owners in the same predicament.
So have you ever experienced regional profiling before? Have you ever been denied a job based on how you talk? If so, weigh in and let us know how you handled it. Does anyone think that someone could be given minority status based on accent alone?
Contributing Writer: Sandra P.