To those of you who read this blog often you would know that occasionally, on a Wednedsay, I like to honor the social media trend of ‘woman crush Wednesday’ aka #wcw. Last week it was Brittany Hampton who held this spot on my blog and this week, I’d like to introduce you to Mellody Hobson, an American businesswoman who is the president of Ariel Investments and the current Chairman of the Board of Directors of Dreamworks. She is married to George Lucas, an American film director, screenwriter, producer, and entrepreneur.
You may or may not have heard about her before but she is someone I look up to for inspiration, wisdom and strength. I first came of Hobson, after her TedTalk in 2014, where she discussed the issue of race. In her talk, she made reference to a 2006 incident where, a friend of hers named Harold Ford called her, to tell her that he was running for US Senate in Tennessee and that he needed some national press. Hobson called a friend at a major media organization and organized a lunch. But when Hobson and Ford arrived at the lunch, they were taken to a back room. Then they were asked: “Where are your uniforms?”
Hobson says that this is an incident that Ford and her still laugh about today. Although I can see the humor in that experience, it is still sad. Based on their appearance, they were automatically mistaken for ‘the help’. Stories like this are so common, where people are marginalized based on their skin color or appearance and stereotypes are created for them.
In my experience, I have encountered people who have been puzzled as to why my English was so good when I spoke to them. This tells me that before these people spoke to me, they had already judged me by whatever standard they use and arrived at the conclusion that my English should not be proficient enough.
I always get the “why is your English so good” question or the good old “how come you do not have an African accent?” To this day, I still do not know what an African accent is and I can’t imagine what it would ever sound like. I do however, know that there is a Nigerian accent, there is a Zambian accent, there is a Kenyan way of pronouncing certain English words and the list could go on, detailing how each African differs in their pronunciation of English words. So given the vast differences, I do not understand how we could possibly be grouped as one big “African accent.”
The video below is a brilliant example of how it would look like if I was to ask a Caucasian person the questions they seem to think are appropriate. Perhaps this will get the point across a bit more.
And to answer the question about why my English is so could, I honestly didn’t realize it was meant to sound bad or that those are the expectations you have when you see me so I don’t quite know how to answer that in a way that would be any different from why your English is also good.
So to conclude, I’ve included the TedTalk from Hobson titled ‘Color blind or color brave?’ My hope in sharing this video, is to enlighten those of you who have preconceived ideas about anyone who looks different to you. My hope is that you will become more open minded and accepting that my skin color does not define my capabilities. My skin color does not mean I ride lions to school or live in trees (believe it or not I’ve been asked these things before as well). In sharing this with you, I hope we can educate eachother beyond our borders so that the next time we meet, we can have different conversations, where you are not condescending towards me because of my skin color.