I have since gone ahead to speak at many national and international events, sometimes with heads of states and diplomats present. I have made a few speeches at UN meetings, appeared on a live televised round table debate with Tony Blair and some other world leaders, but I never for a minute felt self conscious about my accent, and well, my audience never really complained and in some cases, they seemed to appreciate what I had to say. Shows you should choose your audience well!
In 2009, I attended a student exchange program in Indian; I was the only black student in a group of white students. I noticed that the first thing most, if not all, of the Indian lecturers did was to apologize for their accents! I thought that was unnecessary if not outright pathetic. I mean, I paid some serious money for a Masters degree in a UK university, none of the very white, very accented lecturers ever bothered to apologize to me for their British accents, rather, whenever I ventured to speak in the class (and yes, I couldn’t be kept shut) , I at least, made sure I spoke slowly enough for them to get the gist of my comments but did they ever extend such courtesy to me? Hell no! And I am pretty sure the exchange lecturers in UK did not apologize for their British accents to the exchange Indian students sitting in UK classrooms. So why did the Indian lecturers feel they had to apologise for their local accents to the exchange, mainly white students group? Well, somehow I knew (don't ask me how!) that even though i was a member of that group, they weren't apologising to my black ass for their Indian accents!
In fact, the default setting is, being an English speaking white person means ‘No accent’ and if at all, it is considered a ‘superior’ accent to what is coming out from a brown or black mouth! Of course having only lived in UK for 3 years, I am still trying to identify the myriads of British accents; from the Manchester accents, to the Lancashire, to the Scots, to the… oh forget it! Yet, I am by default, the one who is supposed to apologize for my accent because I am black and from Africa. Nope, we all have our accents and none is superior to the other...
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