In response to the article suggesting that UCLA should offer accent reduction programs to combat accent discrimination, I express my concern that such a program would not invest in international students so much as invest in preserving prejudice in American society.
The article fails to differentiate between accents resulting from regionality, such as Boston, Houston and other first language accents, and foreign native phonology, such as Chinese, French and other second-language accents. We’re expected to understand without saying that the suggestion wasn’t for UCLA to start teaching Australians to fake Californian accents.
That is, the idea that America discriminates against people for having a native language other than English is normalized as common knowledge. These are people whose accents are targeted not by virtue of the accent itself, but for its connection to their race, ethnicity or culture. The article acknowledges this as problematic. But it might consider that a better investment would positively impact diversity, holding society accountable for its prejudice rather than people for their accents.
Saying free and optional “accent reduction programs” is the solution UCLA owes its international community validates the idea that discrimination is a prerogative of American society, and that its solution is the victims’ duty to seek. Suggesting UCLA’s commitment to international students should take the form of a program that normalizes discrimination against them is only endorsing xenophobia in the guise of benevolence. If such programs are helpful, they speak more about society’s acceptance of prejudice as a norm than about the capabilities of international students.
Wang is a rising second-year history student.