In a recent talk at the African Studies Program Ohio University, Athens, Ohio much interest was elicited on the question of the African accent. While some audience members acknowledged that indeed, the accent could be a barrier to communication, they echoed a certain counter story from participants in the study of African-born women faculty. It was a riveting, yet honest conversation on how to bridge the gaps without unduly silencing people. Here are some excerpts on the accent question:
Identity: Ifeoma “The accent is really a metaphor for who I am . . . suspended in the air” (p. 109).
Intelligence: Nana “Being an African professor is about challenges of color, gender but the biggest is accent. It hurts when people act as if they don’t understand you” (p. 124).
Competence: Ndeda “Having published in mainline journals will dispel the perception that having an accent is synonymous with being ignorant”(p. 163).
Doubt: Cathy “They’re not even listening” (p. 127).
Do you feel silenced by your non-American accent? If so, how are you handling this challenge?