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Does Articulate = Intelligent?

    For some reason, being called articulate in the black community has become synonymous with being called idiotic.  Black people have often gotten offended when someone white says "He speaks so well" or "She's very articulate".  Remember the hubbub when it was said about President Obama the first time he ran for office?  Such an observation has been frowned upon because of the way it's been said in the past.  It sounds to black folks like the person saying it is surprised that a black person can put two sentences together and actually make sense.  For black people (who care), speaking well should not be treated as if it's a phenomenon in the African American culture.
     With that said, let's look a little bit deeper at this idea of being articulate when communicating.  The moment a person opens his or her mouth, a dozen assumptions are made about them by the way they speak. Some of them are right on target, and of course, some of them are totally off base.  For example, to hear a person be able to articulate his vision for his future or a plan to start a business or the reason why he feels passionate about his religious beliefs may cause the listener to think this person is a critical thinker.  He is decisive.  He is educated.  He is wise.  He is confident, and a whole host of other positive assumptions.  Regardless of his race, many would surmise he's a guy worth engaging.  Now take a young white man from a rural county in a rural state in the deep south.  Throw in a southern twang as part of his dialect, a few mispronounced and misused words, and an inability to clearly communicate how he's going to start a trucking business, and we immediately assume he's uneducated, lacks intelligence, and is merely sucking up oxygen someone else could be using.  More than likely, he wouldn't get much of our time.  Is that racist?
     The way I see it, acknowledging that someone's articulate has less to do with insulting someone's race than it does insulting someone's intelligence.  We automatically assume that a well-spoken person is educated, smart, and worth our time.  We're more likely to listen to them than we are to someone who is rambling, using slang, and limited in their vocabulary.  Without addressing the reality that people who are articulate can present themselves quite well to others but can be so full of bull that they stink.  Or people who are simplistic in their communications, who don't use a lot of big ol' fancy words, whose style is not to be pedantic and haughty can be successful leaders.  Those truths aside, think about how you view people who are well-spoken and good communicators.  Then think of those whom you've encountered that weren't.  What assumptions did you make?  And how valid were your assumptions?


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