A few nights ago as I drove home from work, I did the usual thing of playing my music to unwind from the day’s worries. Ten minutes later on the highway, I found myself singing along to an “oldie” about a girl whose hips do not tell fables.
As I sang along though I couldn’t help but be slightly disturbed about what I was hearing. At multiple points in the song the male featured says, “You make a man want to speak Spanish.”
Inherently there is nothing wrong with that, and by all means, I encourage learning a second or third language. [I am pretty certain it was even said in an off-handed manner. You know, something that men say to impress a girl.]
In this song and any other song by this female artist, let’s call her Becky, she has a very heavy accent. It is part of Becky’s heritage, and from time to time she even releases music purely in her native tongue. Becky is praised beyond words by all genders and races for being beautiful and having an exotic and unique sound. (Let’s not even get to how much I dislike the word exotic…). In any case, and speaking from personal experience, there have been times where I had to take a second to understand what Becky was trying to say in her songs. Let me just take a wild guess and assume that you have had some of those moments too.
What is strange though is that I’ve never heard too much criticism on her take of the English language.
I bring this up because not too long ago another artist released a song wherein her Barbados accent was pretty evident. The world stopped. Every single person had something to say about the fact that she wasn’t speaking ‘proper English.’ Let’s call this second artist… Rihanna. In contrast to Becky, Rihanna does not often let her accent come through so heavily in her music (which I just generally think is unfortunate). But here she was, releasing her first song off of the latest album and people was criticizing the fact that they couldn’t understand what she was saying.
Rewind back to the moment I said that there was a whole entire male willing to learn another language for Becky and add in because Becky is Eurocentrically beautiful.
Did you get that?
Let me break it down for you real quick.
The moment that a person isn’t white and has an accent then it automatically gives people the right to THINK that they are allowed to comment. In fact, a whole entire man isn’t singing about wanting to learn to speak like Rihanna.
Because she’s black.
Black accents aren’t sexy.
Black dialects are not sexy.
Black languages are not sexy,
We just automatically dismiss black people when they don’t perfect the English language. However, we are more than willing to be understanding when a white person can’t speak ‘well.’
Needless to say that I have taken that hip lying swinging song off of my playlist.
Written by Hulisani Khorombi, Assistant Editor, #MyGirlSquad