The SMU survey wanted an authentic and polite racial conversation, so they asked students ”Why Are Black People So Loud?”. We have collected a bunch of insights into this problematic question, and come to a conclusion that this stereotype needs to die.
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The Controversial Survey
Even though it happened 2 years ago, many people still can’t forget the survey conducted by Southern Methodist University that sparked racial controversy.
The survey included questions like ‘Do black people hate America?’, “Do black people get sunburned?”, and the one that has been discussed the most: ‘Why are black people so loud?’.
While the survey immediately received at least 100 complaints and backlash soon after publishing, the university kept defending itself.
Maria Dixon Hall, head of the initiative, said the purpose of this survey was to start a conversation about questions students want to ask about races, religions, cultures, and ideologies but dare not speak out due to social pressure.
Significantly, she said: “As an African-American, I’ve heard people ask (those questions). I think that’s where we are with race in this country. We can’t have an authentic conversation. We are coached to have a polite conversation, which means we can’t ask questions.”
However, it was removed to ensure the survey data wouldn’t be misunderstood by people who are not in the SMU community, according to Dixon Hall.
Now if the survey aims to an authentic racial conversation, let’s be serious on ”Are black people really loud?”
”Are Black People Really Loud?”
We collected insights from several Black writers and vocal professionals about the popular stereotype ”Why are Black people so loud?”
From a technical view, differences in speech patterns can contribute to the higher volume. Many African-Americans tend to stress far more syllables per sentence. More stressed syllables result in greater energy per sentence, and thus the sentences sound louder.
According to Esther Inglis-Arkell, the author of the article Do people of different races have different voices?, Black people have greater amplitude and frequency perturbation, as well as a lower harmonics-to-noise ratio.
Hence, their voices can vary in tone and loudness more than white people. They can speak loud or soft as much as they want thanks to their vocal cord health.
The thing is, while other ethnicities can have the same syllable-stressing habits and can be just as loud (or even louder), such as Italian, Irish and Serbian, why is there an emphasis on the volume of Black Americans?
Debunk The ”Why Are Black People So Loud?” Stereotype
Eternity Martis, the pen behind The Politics Of Being Black And Loud, shared her experience of witnessing black people being silenced, arrested, and killed for the noise they make. To her, ”black people aren’t more or less loud than anyone else, and yet the noise we make is feared, scrutinized, and made public.”
She also emphasized the racist hatred towards Black people, including their voice: ”Black noise can easily be dismissed as antagonistic, abrasive, and futile, but it is survival. It forces people to acknowledge black experiences and oppression, and it’s loud even when no one wants to hear it.”
To Lawrence Richardson, the pastor of the United Church of Christ, Black people frequently feel insecure about their safety. They have to always watch out for racial violence and police brutality.
By one estimate, Black men are 2.5 times easier to be killed by police during their lives than white men. Unarmed Black people who were shot by police are twice as likely as unarmed white people. That’s why George Floyd’s death has caused rage all across America and the world.
Speaking loud naturally becomes a form of defense and informs the world about their existence.
Besides, Black people experience microaggression and racial biases everywhere, including at work. It is quite common that they receive a racist comment or an unfair promotion and work evaluation.
Many times speaking loud and straightforward to them is the most effective, direct way to reduce frustration and inform people about that unfairness.
Finally, Richardson emphasized the sense of freedom that Black people feel when they speak loud. He said:
”If your spirit gets broken over and over each day by the micro- and macroaggressions that exaggerate the American Dream of Scarcity, do you scream? Do you shout? Do you yell? And do you talk loud?
If speaking up for yourself or speaking the truth of your experiences means the possibilities of lost wages and missed opportunities, do you scream? Do you shout? Do you yell? And do you talk loud?
If each day could be your last day because your very existence threatens the status quo of White supremacy, do you scream? Do you shout? Do you yell? And do you talk loud?”
The ”Don’t Make The Black Kids Angry” Stereotype
A quite similar stereotype we would like to mention is black kids are angry, easily triggered, and speaking with altitudes.
According to Jacqueline B. Koonce in her “Oh, Those Loud Black Girls!”: A Phenomenological Study of Black Girls Talking with an Attitude“ research, the fact that Black children speak with attitudes results from being treated unfairly in their living environment, mostly at school.
Ideally, schools should be a safe place that protects Black students against violence and racial biases.
However, Black kids often feel like they are being constantly exposed to a hostile school environment due to the daily microaggression and bully.
It leads them to the compulsions to talk with an attitude, to be angry to protect themselves.
”Why Are Black People So Loud?” Stereotype Need To Die
Black people have to face lots of long-rooted stereotypes. Every day, they live with fighting and watching-out attitudes.
As long as racial discrimination, injustice, and police brutality toward Black people still exist, stop complaining ”Why are black people so loud?”.
There is no doubt about the benefit of discussing racial stereotypes. We all need to educate the young generation on their negative societal impacts. Many politicians have raised their voices to support black citizens who deserve respect and freedom as much as others do (like Charlie Kirk).
However, we believe there are many subtle and smart ways to open a conversation where everybody gets to share their experiences and not feel offended or targeted.
The survey from Southern Methodist University not only failed to fulffil its purpose but also received a huge backlash.
Speak louder for the people from the back!
When something is loud, you can’t block it out. The loudness that comes from the Black community forces the world to hear them and know the oppression and experience that they have been through.
To end this article, Jobandedu would like to recall the iconic song by James Brown: Say louder! I am black and I am proud!
WATCH: “Say It Loud It Loud ~ I’m Black & I’m Proud”