Black like Al?

Some readers tell Gore to cut the jive talk. Others think he speaks just fine.

By Salon Staff
July 18, 2000 10:36PM (UTC)
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I was pleased that someone in the national media finally has picked up on and actually taken issue with the way our vice president cynically changes his tone to suit his audience. I have long noticed the way he tries to talk and behave like a caricature of a black preacher when he speaks at African-American churches and other gatherings with people of color. Were I an African-American, I would feel mocked and insulted by this behavior.

But Mr. Gore puts on this kind of show for more that just African-American groups. As a white Southerner here in Mr. Gore's alleged home state of Tennessee, I take offense at the way he talks as if he has dirt and gravel in his mouth to Southern audiences. As a well-educated and well-spoken graduate of the law school that Al Gore dropped out of, I am insulted that he thinks he has to talk like a "Hee-Haw" rerun when he comes around here. If he would just be himself, whatever that might be, I would be more likely to listen and believe when he speaks.


-- W. Aaron Fortner

You make the claim that Al Gore talks differently in front of different groups. Well, this is a very common political and rhetorical strategy. When Clinton talks to a Southern crowd you can instantly tell this by the cadences of his voice and how he phrases things. You will often find small mention of this fact from the reports of his speeches.

Both Clinton and Gore are Southerners, and are Southern Baptists, and both these factors do have an influence on their speech patterns. When Al Gore gets excited (and yes, I've actually seen this) he takes on a certain cast in his voice and inflection. When you say he's a white man who is trying to sound like a black man, I'll come back with the observation that this is what plenty of Southern white guys sound like when they are excited and fired up. It's the culture thing folks, this is what he's always sounded like, and down home, there's plenty more like him, and folks who understand where he's coming from. No, he doesn't have the mangled syntax and the faux Texas come Connecticut Country Day school "accent" of "Dubya" Bush, but then again Al's always been more genuine.


-- J.M. Prince

I am a black American and I have watched Gore speak before black audiences on several different occasions. I thought I was the only one to notice Gore's change in speech when addressing black people. To me it indicates that he harbors a stereotypical view of black people.

Does he think that we will be motivated by the way he says something as opposed to what he is saying? If so then he must not think much of black intellect. But this doesn't surprise me in the least. I do not believe that one party has a lock on bigotry. It exists on both sides in equal amounts. I am extremely disappointed in the NAACP and other pro-Democratic black groups for being so fearful of stating the obvious.


-- Keith Houchen

I am a black woman and I listened to Al Gore's speech to the NAACP. What I heard was a man reacting to the enthusiasm of his audience, no more, no less. I'm sure that many white people have been inspired by the energy and speaking style of great black leaders and Al Gore is no different. He is also a politician and it shouldn't be some big surprise or a big deal that he sounded enthusiastic and inspired when he spoke to a group of people who obviously support his cause and who will play a critical role in getting him elected this fall. Don't read more into it than necessary and please give Al a break. Would you prefer that he'd gotten up there and been his usual wooden self? I prefer this version.


-- Tanya Clements

I don't need to listen to the audio clips to know that Al Gore puts on a little show when he talks to black audiences. I saw the NAACP speech and the debate in Harlem and I haven't heard a caricature of an African-American voice like that since "Amos 'n' Andy." It's borderline offensive and I can't believe he gets away with it. Dubya certainly wouldn't get away with it. I suppose Gore is trying to add some excitement to the speech, but I for one am embarrassed for him every time I hear him take on the "soul voice."

-- Dave Connell


I think you people need a reality check. If you watch Al Gore and really listen to him he is a spirited speaker. The spin is he is stiff and boring when all he wants to do is talk issues

I am from California and grew up in San Francisco and I had lots of black friends ... and guess what, when you get around them you get their spirit ... by osmosis ... it just happens! Al Gore is no different than any other person who loves the colorful spirit of our black brothers and sisters of America.

-- C. Hildreth


Having been born in Arkansas and living there until I was 20, I am particularly sensitive to Southern accents and the nuances of the "language." For years I have noted the difference when a white person speaks to a black person and is trying to "make points" with their "acceptance and open-mindedness." Their voice rises a bit, they become more animated, laughing a bit more, in my opinion attempting to say, "Hey, look everyone, I'm talking to a black just like he is white." It's the same when an adult speaks to a child or a dog. The adult's voice changes. I try to speak to all children over 1 year old with the same voice as I would an adult.

When I am in a group of people of mixed races I can always detect with my eyes closed if they are speaking to a black person. It makes me cringe because if I can hear the difference, I'm sure the black person feels it. Al Gore is the biggest pandering and patronizing person I have seen in years. I pray that blacks can see through it.

-- Ila Richardson

What a dumb lead for an article. Of course he adopts preacher-style cadences when he speaks to black audiences. Ask a few black people. They know, and they don't mind. Al himself would admit as much, and so would his aides.


This seems to be about white liberals who are uncomfortable with someone like Gore being direct and emotional. Yes, it's contrived, but so was the style of Martin Luther King Jr. Do you think that King spoke that way when he asked for a cup of coffee?

-- Bennett Charles

After listening to the last 10 minutes of the NAACP speech, I have come to the conclusion that this guy will do, say, perform any act (even a monkey act like he did before the NAACP) to spread his venom and lies and to destroy the racial harmony which exists today for his own selfish and greedy power needs.

This is a dangerous liar who must be firmly repudiated by blacks and whites at the polls --I fear for this country if he ever becomes president.


-- R. Brown

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