Interesting NPR segment today: A powerful eruption on the sun disrupted radio signals on earth. What’s remarkable is it’s a PhD candidate talking to an NPR host about solar flares, completely in two Southern Black accents. Two women, at that.
I am dismayed at my own involuntary racist reaction to these voices. I do not expect educated people to speak this kind of English. A crystal clear example of my prejudice. I know and respect Ayesha Rascoe’s work on NPR. India Jackson is a PhD candidate and clearly a domain expert. The segment is good, detailed at the right level for the NPR audience. But I hear the accent and my knee-jerk reaction is negative. In my defense I was raised to be like this and I am trying to be better.
My favorite moment is about 2 minutes in, discussing the threats to humanity from a solar flare:
The way she delivers that last line, stretches “sun” to two syllables with an intense diphthong. It’s delightful! And effective. She’s discussing a complex topic in astrophysics and the frightening threats it poses to humanity. But then she uses a vernacular phrasing, “doing what she goin’ to do”, to highlight our impotence. She makes the topic relatable, almost friendly, a perfect tone for an NPR’s more casual weekend programming.
I hate this prejudice in me, that certain kinds of accents read as ignorant. I know I’m not alone in having it. I am glad this NPR segment challenged me.