Some people of color mock the way other members in their community speak as a way of gaining “acceptance” by white people. For a long time, I imitated Desi accents around my white friends, classmates, and co-workers who would burst into laughter every time. I decided to stop when they thought it was “ok” for them to mock the accents just because I did it. While it’s certainly not the same thing when I imitate the Desi accent around only people of color, the privilege of not facing challenges because of our white accents rarely enters the conversation. I have heard others say things like, “I can’t stand the Desi accent, it’s annoying,” or “I hate the way Indians/Pakistanis talk,” or make innocent-sounding statements like, “Desi accents are hilarious!” These comments don’t take into account that there are real South Asians who actually live with the reality of racist remarks, angry looks, discrimination, and harsh judgment due to the stereotypes linked with their accents.
Accent, however, is more than a theatrical device and has also been linked to real life perceptions of competency, intelligence, and credibility. In educational contexts, including language learning communities, non-native speaking students and teachers face judgments of academic or professional incompetence based on their language status.
Which is why I don’t care how funny you think you are when you mock those “fobs.”
TAKE NOTE, YOUTUBERS. THAT SHIT YOU’RE DOING IS NOT AVANT-GARDE, EDGY, OR FUNNY.