Diversity is about more than how we look; it’s also about how we sound. The way we speak is shaped by our upbringing, communities, histories, beliefs, and experiences. It represents identity in complex ways.
And like skin color, hair texture, and gender expression, it is a magnet for marginalization and discrimination.
In the U.S., there’s still a pervasive hierarchy that views particular ways of speaking English as superior. This hierarchy both aligns with and cuts across familiar biases around race, region, and national origin. For those at the receiving end of this bias, consequences range from lost opportunities to personal trauma to the diminishment of their languages, cultures, and sense of personhood.
Yet accent, language, and dialect often come second to physical appearance in public discussions of diversity and inclusion.
Say That Again? is a series that centers how people sound, and the joys and challenges of coming to terms with our own voices. Over seven episodes, Monitor reporters Jessica Mendoza and Jingnan Peng ask: Why do we judge one another based on how we talk? How do we overcome preconceived notions around accent and language? And what does it look like when people are valued for what they have to say, no matter how they say it?