Round your words off perfectly
Ensure that you r’s are silenced
Your k’s should not be too harsh
You see, “If I spoke the way people of my skin colour spoke, I would fall victim to this stereotype that has been established for my people”*in Coloured accent*
My tongue rolls incessantly throughout the day
And I’ve been told that I sound educated
I was once commended for the way I articulated myself in a debate
The white man said, “Your command for the English language is great, especially how you were able to articulate yourself.”
Oh why, of course, it is unusual for Coloured people to express themselves in the same language of our colonisers
And we applauded them with our silence and inability to stand up for what we believe in
Sitting in silence, teeth marks on our tongues, brittle teeth
You see, I am not upset that this poem is in English
I am upset that my Coloured accent is immediately associated with an uneducated human being
Yet my English is overactive
My knowledge of the English language will command your respect, will consume you whole, irrespective of what accent I choose to express myself in
My English has allowed me to sound White
Because White is equivalent to being educated, right?
I don’t speak the way I do as an attempt to sound White
I speak the way I do because that’s the way I was raised
My accent does not mean I’m better
It just means that I was lucky enough to attend the school I did
That I was even afforded the opportunity to afford attending an institution of Higher Learning
My accent simply means that my tongue rolls slightly more than yours
That my mouth is always more rounded
And often my jaws are not clenched
It means that I need to switch my accents in between people so that they can have a certain image of me
How dare I speak in an English accent to my Coloured community?
The audacity to do that, to disrespect them, to be a constant reminder of what was never in their reach.
How dare I remind them of their circumstances!
So I change my accent around them
I change it around other races to appear as though I’m on their level.
But it’s time
It’s time for me to unclench my fist
And free myself from this box I have been put in
The way I have been boxed in
This box is becoming too small for me
It’s been too warm in here for too long
Feature image taken by Charissa Cassels