DARE TO ASK: Does race really affect noise level?
By PHILLIP MILANO, The Times-Union
Why do black people act louder in public more than any other race?
Sparky, 48, Asian female, Middleburg
I'm not loud in public. My family and friends aren't. The funny thing is,
when white people are being loud I hardly notice it, or I respond by saying that
those "people" are being loud, rather than those "white people" are being loud.
We live in a society where "white" is the norm and anyone who is non-white
stands out in every respect.
Lash, 24, black female, San Francisco
Some lower-class black people (and lower-class white people co-opting black
culture) use noise to draw attention to themselves and challenge authority.
Ridiculously loud laughing, screeching or yelling insults to one another creates
a situation in which if one approaches them, their posture is confrontational by
default. It is an American trait. Never have I seen a Nigerian woman run up the
aisle of a movie theater with her friend in tow because something they'd seen
was simply too funny.
Austin, 31, white male, Frankfort, Ky.
I've always wondered why Asian people are so quiet.
Sherry, 24, black female, Bakersfield, Calif.
My friends and I are not quiet. I am shy when I am in a new environment, but
when I am with my friends, I am loud. Well, I guess fobs (fresh off the boat)
are more quiet. One of my fob friends told me she doesn't want people to tease
her broken English or accent.
Jo, Asian female, Chino Hills, Calif.
Everyone gets loud when they're around their friends. Geeky white nerds even
get loud and excited when they're talking about science.
Alicia, 15, black female, Atlanta
We get the "all blacks are loud" catch-all query a lot, and its classic
variant, "Why do black people hoot and holler at the movies?"
Most people who complain about boisterous public behavior are older people
upset with groups of younger people of any race, says Brenda Rhodes Miller,
author of The Church Ladies' Divine Desserts and Sweet Recollections (Putnam).
"Young people are loud in situations where they feel uncertain or fearful,"
she says. "The noise is because they don't want people to mess with them."
As for acting up in the movie theater, while members of any race certainly do
this, participatory "loud talk" among some African-Americans can share
characteristics of the call and response tradition of many worship services,
says Miller, wife of a Baptist minister. They may share their feelings with the
group about what they're experiencing, as in church, or even talk back to the
characters on-screen, as in "You better watch your back!" or "Look at that fool
going into a dark building in the middle of the night!"
"And if you already think black people [do this more], you're going to notice
the loud voices more than the black person who tells the others 'Will you please
Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers, or mail to
Phillip Milano, c/o The Florida Times-Union, P.O. Box 1949, Jacksonville, FL
32231. Include contact information.