When Blacks Are Plainspoken, Whites Might Hear Threats - the Root
Yet in an honest, and perhaps more productive, discussion of this topic, we have to allow something uncomfortable—the possibility that language plays a part in the stereotype. To whites, I highly suspect that often, black boys and men have a way of sounding violent.
Without meaning to, though, which makes it all harder to grapple with. Here’s an example:
The other day on the subway I heard two black men in their 30s talking about a misunderstanding that one of them had had at work that day. They were just unwinding after a long day, and yet there was what many might process as a tinge of impending battle in their voices, inflections and gestures. “Man, I wanted to ‘Mmmph!’ [jab of the arm, click of the tongue] Gimme a break! An’ I was like … [putting on a challenging glare] don’t even start.”
And these were perfectly normal guys having a conversation, which, between black men, was perfectly normal in its tone. No black listener would assume these guys actually meant the hints at violence literally. To us, this way of talking just sounds like two guys letting off steam.