The linguist/conservative pundit John McWhorter and playwright/actress/mimic Sarah Jones did a great segment last year on Studio 360 called ‘Sounding Black’ that dealt with Barack Obama’s strategically deployed ‘blaccent’ — and what it suggested about our perceptions of race and class.
JONES: Just like Barack Obama, I am a person of mixed-race heritage. But, I am identified, and am clearly identifiable as African-American, or black. That is, at least, if you look at me. But what if you are listening to me? Do I sound black? Do I have a ‘blaccent?’
MCWHORTER: Blaccent is interesting because it is a very hazy concept in people’s minds. So if you say that there is such a thing as Black English, what most people think of immediately is teen hip-hop slang. The sad thing is that for many people, the blaccent connotes lack of intelligence. And I think we know historical reasons for that.
And on the other hand, there is an ambiguous relationship to it because especially when the blaccent comes from an older person it connotes a certain warmth. And so we have gotten to the point where Morgan Freeman, or that Morgan Freeman voice is now considered a wonderful voice for a narrator in a movie or in a TV commercial.
Also, the black female voice, as long as she is middle aged, that kind of nice, leathery sound, that is something that is considered warm and authoritative.
You can give the whole conversation a listen here.