The One Phrase You Should *Probably* Stop Saying to BIPOC

“You speak so well.”

Newsflash: This is not a compliment, and it can have harmful and problematic connotations. Follow-up thoughts like, “Why are you speaking ‘white’?” or “You don’t act/talk like ‘them’” perpetuate this racist dialogue even more. So why are BIPOC (aka Black, Indigenous and People of Color) tired of hearing this? Here’s everything you need to know.

5 Microaggressions You Might Be Committing Without Realizing It

A super short history lesson about African American English

We can’t talk about how problematic this phrase is without breaking down what it means to “speak so well.” So, we have to start with why some believe “speaking Black” is “bad” vs. “speaking white” is “good.”

So, what exactly is “speaking Black”? Well, it’s actually its own dialect. Ebonics, otherwise known as “black speech” was coined in 1973 by Black scholars who sought to give the complex language—which has its own distinct rules and grammar—a name and remove negative and racist connotations associated with it. Now, known more widely as African American English (AAE), linguists believe this dialect evolved from slavery and segregation and became a way to communicate, connect and express oneself.

Long story short: Despite the fact that AAE is its own complex dialect, there is a history of non-Black individuals casting it as wrong or bad. From the education system, which discourages students from talking in this dialect (with fear that they won’t be able to communicate “correctly” in the future) to the music industry, which has repeatedly written off hip-hop despite its massive contributions to pop aesthetics and sounds—take Billie Eilish’s misplaced critique of rap artists in her Vogue cover story—AAE is wrongly equated to mean that the person speaking it—if they happen to BIPOC (we’ll get to that…)—is poor, dangerous and/or uneducated.

But Not All Black People Use Aae

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Associate Editor, Ultimate Fangirl, Aspiring Beauty Guru

Chelsea Candelario is an Associate Editor at PureWow. She has been covering beauty, culture, fashion and entertainment for over a decade. You'll find her searching the internet...