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Can you help me to interpret the poem "On Being Told I Don't Speak Like a Black Person"...

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kongpinghan | Student | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 17, 2011 at 2:35 PM via web

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Can you help me to interpret the poem "On Being Told I Don't Speak Like a Black Person" by Allison Joseph?

 

Let us speak. Let us talk
with the sounds of our mothers
and fathers still reverberating
in our minds, wherever our mothers
or fathers come from: Arkansas, Belize, Alabama,
Brazil, Aruba, Arizona.
Let us simply speak
to one another,
listen and prize the inflections,
differences, never assuming
how any person will sound
until her mouth opens,
until his mouth opens,
greetings familiar
in any language.

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lsumner | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted May 18, 2011 at 6:04 AM (Answer #1)

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This poem is stating that it is okay to speak the way your mother or father taught you to speak. The poet is offended when others ask her about her speech sounds or dialect. Joseph considers it rude to negatively judge the way someone speaks.

The poet states that we should prize differences in speaking habits. We should appreciate differences. We should not judge people by the way they speak. We should never assume anything, but we should be open-minded enough to recognize distinctions in speech as delightful sounds. We should feel comfortable enough to speak the way we speak and to speak with pride. We should be deliberate in our speech habits. Dialectal differences should be admired by all.

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