Talking "White"…Still?

It never ceases to amaze me that, in this day and age, when we have an Ivy League educated, African-American President and First Lady, how people are still so surprised that my children are well-spoken. I guess the people that call them well-spoken should at least be commended for their progressive thoughts. They are, after all, miles ahead of those that accuse them of simply trying to sound “white.”

(Photo: TDMartin –

Let’s be clear, it is no accident that my children have such an extensive vocabulary. Their command of the English language was deliberate and thoroughly planned. From day one of their lives, I spoke to them just like I speak to most of my adult acquaintances. Admittedly, I occasionally do have to dumb down my conversation depending on to whom I am speaking; because even adults get accused of trying to talk “white,” or worst, of attempting to talk down to others.

So what do I attribute their articulateness to? Well for one thing, I never used baby talk when I spoke to my kids, which is probably why they look at me with sheer annoyance when I coo at my little rat terrier puppy wuppy. What’s more, when they were babies, toddlers and preschoolers, I spoke to them often. For instance, when riding in the car, I would explain what was on our agenda for the day. Then I would proceed to list what we had to do. When they were old enough to talk, which for both of them was at a very early age, I would also ask them if they knew what the word “agenda” meant. From the context clues, they could easily discern that it meant a list of things that we needed to do.

In addition to talking to them, I also read to my children regularly. And we made reading fun. I would act out all the characters and read the stories in such rhythmic patterns that the kids could finish the sentences. To this day, both of my offspring, ages 16 and 13, are avid readers and accomplished writers.
My 16-year-old daughter, who probably experienced the most teasing because of her articulation, once asked me why I always used such big words. I told her I was getting her ready for the PSAT and the SAT. Now mind you, she was about 12 at the time. She’s since taken the PSAT and has subsequently come to appreciate my methods.

I asked her this morning, if she still gets teased because she uses big words. She said yes, but that it doesn’t bother her anymore. I went on to ask her why she thinks she uses such big words. Her response was,”Because you always use big words, plus I read a lot.”
My 13 year-old was a little more naïve on the subject. In fact, he wasn’t even aware that he used big words and he definitely didn’t think that he talked “white.” He said, “That’s just how I talk.” Although, he did admit that sometimes his friends have a hard time understanding him.

If you have a question or comment for Kimberly, please send an email to


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