What a white person says: You are very articulate.

What a black person hears: You don’t sound like a black person.

I thought about this while sitting in on an interview early today. We didn’t have a tool for ranking the candidates, so I was just jotting down a few notes. As I reflect back, I noticed I’d left out the word articulate. After all, he fully demonstrated the ability to speak fluently and coherently. Yet it never crossed my mind actually use the “A” word.

Could it be that he was white and there is an expectation that he as a white man would be articulate? So there is no reason to write it. That would be like me writing…the candidate is breathing. It’s a given, he’s there and speaking so we should assume he’s breathing. I think had he been inarticulate, I definitely would have written that.

Eureka…we key in on things that are exceptional and different.

Trust me, referring to black people as articulate is fairly common. So common that white people tell us directly that we are articulate. As if we should be proud.

Yes, I’ve been called worse, but I take a slight offense because what you are saying is that you didn’t expect for me to be well-spoken. Why? If you knew anything about me, you should be shocked if I weren’t articulate.