One thing is becoming clear about the young Democrat class: they are learning the political ropes (and tropes) pretty quickly, in spite of themselves.
First, Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke gets called out for funneling campaign funds to a company he and his wife owned and ran (a time-honored tradition in political circles that’s legal but shakily ethical).
Now everyone’s favorite freshman congresslady from New York, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, has pulled a Hillary Clinton and adopted a “blaccent” — a portmanteau of “black” and “accent” for the tragically unhip out there — while speaking to a room full of African Americans at the National Action Network’s yearly meeting in New York.
Rep. Ocasio-Cortez: "I'm proud to be a bartender. Ain't nothing wrong that. There's nothing wrong with working retail…There is nothing wrong with preparing that your neighbors will eat."
"There is nothing wrong with being a working person in the United States of America." pic.twitter.com/VTzLpybKfw
— ABC News (@ABC) April 5, 2019
Before getting to the point AOC’s trying to make (which has problems beyond the delivery), it’s worth remembering that Lady Clinton similarly shifted which syllables she chose to accent while speaking to a Southern audience as a presidential candidate back in 2008.
Attaching the referenced for the kids who might not know what I'm talking about. https://t.co/g19pvzWRCa
— Bobby P (@Panzenbeck) April 5, 2019
Now to the point AOC is trying to make to her audience: She’s 100% correct. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with hard-working Americans doing jobs that are genuine assets to their communities and to the general economy. Servers, retail employees, bus drivers, etc. are all fine professions and should be recognized as such. There is honor in honest work, no matter what that work might be.
But what AOC misses — and it’s clear she does because she feels the need to adopt the vernacular of the black Americans she’s speaking to — is that trying to appeal to a community of people by dressing up in their “cultural clothes” is what the people on her side of the political aisle call “cultural appropriation.” And what conservatives call pandering.
Because I’m fairly certain the people in the room listening to her don’t feel more affection for what she’s saying because she’s trying to sound like them. And to assume they would by adopting an accent she thinks they all have (which they don’t) gives the impression that they’re not listening to what she’s saying, just how she sounds.
Frankly, it could also easily give the impression one thinks black Americans might not be deep enough (or not smart enough) to care about policy ideas, just the manner in which they’re delivered.
And then there’s the problem of singing the praises of working class jobs to a predominantly black, civil rights group. There are many black Americans, doubtless many in that room, who have worked to become lawyers, doctors, accountants, master chefs, and even legislators, like her. Using the accent you have that got you where you are is fine for them, too. They’ll understand you perfectly.
But perhaps that’s why she felt the need to adjust some things.
Ocasio-Cortez speaks in an accent that she never uses while telling a room of predominately black people that there is nothing wrong with them folding clothes, cooking, and driving other people around on a bus for a living. pic.twitter.com/FIbIAPokt0
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) April 5, 2019