“But, You Speak So Well.”
My speech precedes me. I was raised in a home where reading was mandatory. I had to read. I had to learn. I was programmed to not only listen in grade school but pay attention and gain as much knowledge as I could. On top of all of the knowledge gained, I had to study longer, work harder, practice more, and not only be good, but great. I had to be more than my peers and I had to do so because I was a girl, I was black, and we lived on the East side of Savannah, Georgia (predominantly black area). I spent time watching orators give long-winded speeches about education, the arts, culture, the need for funding in Downtown Savannah, etc. I had teenagers for parents who struggled to raise me and did not seek higher education but drilled it deep in my bones that I would, in fact, obtain a college degree.
Thus began my grooming for a world that would look upon a young, black girl and not only respect her but allow her to play on its field. Or, this is what was supposed to happen according to my elders. I entered spelling contests and won. I wrote essays, poems, and short stories and was encouraged to test the waters, no matter how deep. I spent the bulk of my summers in Bronx, New York with my mother’s biological mom and her baby sister. Oddly enough, I have this unique blend of accents — not quite Northern, but not all the way Southern, either — a mixture. I have often been told, “You are too proper,” “You talk White (seriously, what does this mean?)”, and my favorite, “You speak so well, you enunciate everything.” Oh, really now? Am I not supposed to?
Black women are intelligent too, you know. We read. We study abroad. We not only enroll and are accepted into Ivy League universities, but we graduate as well. We are innovative. We are unique. We can take nothing, turn it into something and allow it to multiply because we have had tons of practice in being resourceful. The fact that I am clear in delivering messages to you when I speak does not make me special or you superior. It simply places me in a category you may not be familiar with and that is reason enough to ask yourself why. How many black women do you know? Do you venture out to be friendly with them? Do you listen, truly listen to what is being said by them when holding a conversation?
We have the words of our ancestors pouring out of us, why would you even think we would not be heard? What makes you think that what we say would not be clear, concise, direct, and appropriate? I do not want to be anyone’s common statistic. How you form your thoughts surrounding who I am and how I operate in life is between you and your current mindset. It does not have anything to do with me. I love to watch the look on the face of others when I open my mouth to speak, especially if there is an important topic to discuss at hand. I am tactful, I am steady in my thinking, and not only am I direct — I know my facts when I have to.
When I speak — I am showing you an entire race and the many cultures that make up who we are. When you hear me, you hear a woman — a black woman giving you her thoughts. If ever we have a debate, slight misunderstanding, or an argument, know that what I will say, you will not forget. “But, you speak so well.”
And I do many more things “so well” too.
Copyright© Tremaine L. Loadholt, 2019. All Rights Reserved.
*In this country, American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate. ©Toni Morrison