Monday, October 13, 2008

"Cute White People"

Recently I was talking with my friends about various things when Nachte Raho, an annual dance competition held by the Indian Student Alliance, came up. When I mentioned my attendance at last year's event, I received a response from an Indian friend that left me quite flustered and speechless.

"It's so cute when white people try really hard to say Indian words correctly," scoffed my friend as she laughed at me.

I'm sure my pronunciation wasn't perfect, but it certainly wasn't "Nack-tee Ray-hoo" like I have heard before. I actively sought out the correct pronunciation from one of my friends after hearing multiple pronunciations by speakers at the event. I always ask people with names I am unfamiliar with how to pronounce their name correctly and try by best to learn how to say it correctly. I know that I dislike when people mispronounce my last name (the difference between "Nee-ill" and "Nee-all" doesn't bother me); therefore, I actively seek out help from my friends in order to show them the respect they deserve.

My ire with my friend's comment stems from the fact that it spit in the face of my efforts. She didn't care that it was a fairly close pronunciation of a different language that I don't speak, or that I always make the effort to pronounce her name correctly unlike some of my other friends. Instead, I was just another stupid American who refused to have even a modicum of respect for other cultures.

When I speak with non-native (American) English speakers I don't scoff at their effort to learn a new language or culture. Such behavior is counter-productive and rude. Want to make sure all those "cute white people" continue to butcher your language and mock your culture? Deride them for trying showing an interest.

1 comment:

clancy everafter said...

White people are cute. Even cuter when they get huffy about being infantilised by other cultures the way Western culture infantilised, exoticised and othered "foreigners" for centuries.