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  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: September 2012

9 - Interethnic communication and language prejudice


I have wrassled with an alligator. I done tussled with a whale. I done handcuffed lightning, throwed thunder in jail. That's bad. Only last week I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalized a brick. I'm so mean, I make medicine sick.

(Muhammad Ali, When We Were Kings, 1996)


In 1996 Richard Williams predicted that his daughters, Venus and Serena, would dominate the world of tennis (Malley 2002). Among his other predictions at various points were that they would be ranked numbers one and two in the world, that they would play each other in the finals at Wimbledon, and that they would become “the next two female Michael Jordans” ( The mainstream US media consistently reported on Williams' comments in a very negative fashion, as well as on other comments made by Venus and Serena themselves, such as Serena's “It's our ambition to take over tennis … and we're doing a decent job of it” (Baines 2000) or Venus's saying of her $40 million contract with Reebok “If you ask me … I'm worth it” (Puma 2005). The adjective most often used to describe them by the media? “Arrogant.”

But are they? I was not surprised by the reaction of the media, but still I found it disappointing, mainly because as a researcher on language and ethnicity I saw in the media coverage something that most European-Americans did not see. The mainstream US media, unremarkably, presents everything from the perspective of the dominant white, middle-class culture.

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Suggestions For Further reading
Baugh, Johy. 1999. Out of the Mouths of Slaves: African American Language and Educational Malpractice. Austin: University of Texas Press.
Carbaugh, Donal, ed. 1990. Cultural Communication and Intercultural Contact. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Kochman, Thomas. 1981. Black and White Styles in Conflict. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Lippi-Green, Rosina. 1997. English with an Accent. New York: Routledge.
Scollon, Ron and Scollon, Suzanne B. K.. 1981. Narrative, Literacy, and Face in Interethnic Communication. Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Corp.