Incorrect assumptions

You know when you have some of the information, and the brain tries to fill in the blanks?

Many times I seemed to be watching Lateline, and a report from Norman Hermant would come on, often from Iraq or elsewhere in the Middle East. He works for the ABC, but has an American accent.

For whatever reason, they never seemed to show his face.

My brain decided that he was black. He was a brainy-looking black guy, with a round face, and glasses. Yep. Definitely.

More recently, he’s started appearing in his news stories. And as you can see, perhaps the assumptions I made weren’t entirely correct.

Norman Hermant, of Australian ABC News

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

12 replies on “Incorrect assumptions”

On a kind of related note, you know Wendell Sailor – big black rugby player who switches between league and union? I initially assumed he’d have a strong American accent. When I first heard him interviewed, his plain Australian accent sounded incongruous.

Given that ABC TV news is always getting their captions wrong, maybe that guy ISN’T Norman Hermant. (I think you were wrongly captioned as Ted Baillieu once).

Daniel, are you stereotyping black, sorry, African-Americans, as sounding a certain way? That they all “sound the same”!? In this PC society, you could be called racist for that!

The best one of these was when a black Brit won a gold medal in a track event at the Atlanta Olympics, and a female American reporter tried interviewing him trackside:
Reporter: “As an African-American, how does this…”
Athlete: “I’m Bri’ish.”
Reporter: “As a British African-American…”
Athlete: “I’m no’ African and I’m no’ American: I’m Bri’ish.”

The reporter just walked off looking confused.

Funny thing is, I’m being somewhat facetious, but in this politically correct society, you’re likely to be deemed racist. Indeed, in saying you thought he sounded black, it is because African-Americans have a cadence that distinguishes them from Caucasian Americans. I’ve never heard this reporter, but it sounds like he has such a voice!

I recall an episode of Boston Legal when Denny Crane was making the point that if someone who sounded like he was African-American was threatening him over the phone, in describing him to the police, he would have to say that he sounded black! Seems straight forward, but rest assured it ain’t!

Many, but not all, black people in America do have a different accent and cadence to their speech. It is similiar to a general southern American accent. They also sometimes word their speech differently and an extreme form of this vocabulary is referred to as “Ebonics” or African American English. Being from America with its many accents I can often times tell a speaker is black without actually seeing them just by their accent or choice of words. A person’s name can be a giveaway too.

In the US black people can point out and discuss these differences freely amongst themselves but it is very politically incorrect for a non black person to do so. A non black person might very well find themselves labeled a racist by both black and white people for even a minor comment just as a minor comment in the workplace can lead to a charge of sexual harrasment from an overly sensitive person.

As Vas stated above people are wont to refer to any black person as “African American” to be politically correct even if they are from somewhere else. I once worked with a Jamacian guy who had to correct someone that he was, in fact, Jamican and not African American.

yezzz sah, I’m gessin’ he done never eat watermelon………..

IIRC Renee Gayer wrecked her American career by insisting her picture
was on the record sleeve…………….

Norman is Canadian, not American but he is – or was – married to an Australian reporter. As a celebrant, I officiated at their wedding. I often hear her reporting from another part of the world though so I don’t know if they are still together.

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