How to Respond to ‘You Speak so Well’

Marc Womack, Chief Operating Officer, TD Auto Finance, gives advice on how to respond when someone has a preconceived notion of your appearance and says, "you speak so well."

Produced by Alana Winns

Videography by Christian Carew

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  • Nice. This that subtle shade that people throw on the regular. I also like that it touched on intentions because not everyone has ill intentions.

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  • Marc Womack is correct in saying that humor is a weapon that can be used to offset the “Saucer-Eyes Syndrome. There is a saying among Black people: “We have to laugh to keep from crying.” When we recount these racist ASSumptions, even the late Richard Pryor would be proud of our comedic performance.

    I’m writing a book to show just how alive and well racism and racist stereotypes are in 21st Century AmeriKKKa.

    One example about how whites believe that Blacks can’t possibly master the King’s English was at my college job at a stock brokerage firm in 1977. I was the first Black to integrate this suburban Houston, TX firm and it was my job to give stock quotes to clients via telephone. One old rich white [lonely?] client called daily to get his quotes along with friendly [non-political] chats with me. However, when Jimmy Carter took office, this client that I had communicated with for several months opined: “Now that Carter is in office, he’s going to give everything to the ni@@ers.” Just to play with him, I asked him, “What is a ni@@er?” Shocked by my question, he said: “You know, black people!” I said, “Mr. ___, I’m a Black person, but I’m NOT a ni@@er!!” Shocked again, he said: “No you’re NOT (i.e., a Black person)! I’ve been talking to you for months!” When I confirmed that I AM BLACK, he hung up in my face [Like Womack, I use my “professional” Midwestern (WI) voice at work, but easily resort to the more comfortable Ebonics (my first language) at home and with other Blacks.] Mr. Racist called back, apologized and invited me to his home for dinner, which I refused for fear of being poisoned, lynched and buried on his estate.

    Working with racist white attorneys for over 40 years, I fully understand why there is NO JUSTICE in the criminal JUST US system. I moan when any of them become judges. I’ve had one of their clients furtively call the office for a client status report, and believing that they were talking to the white lawyer, say: “Good work, but make sure that that Black person [me] doesn’t work on my case.” This happened in racist Wisconsin, not the dirty South.

    Speaking “proper” English helps when talking to whites over the phone because when they ASSume that you’re white, you get discounts and other benefits that they wouldn’t offer to you of they knew you were Black. When settling cases with other white lawyers, I never meet them in person (and its good to not have your picture posted everywhere) because most wouldn’t want to concede or lose to a Black lawyer.

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