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How Accent Discrimination Harms Northern Black Women

As a black woman based in Liverpool, I’m aware that one of the most famed features of the city is the Scouse accent. Scousers are particularly known for their unique lilt, often regarded as one of the most distinctive in the UK. But despite its notability, it isn’t always very well-received. 

Labelled by some as the ‘worst British accent’, it’s perceived to be ‘unintelligent’, ‘unfriendly’ and even ‘untrustworthy’, and the city is no stranger to unfavourable representation derived from the way its citizens talk. This can be pinned down to a phenomenon known as accent discrimination, where someone judges a person’s level of intelligence, wealth, or even friendliness by the way that they speak. Research has found that 28% of British people feel they have faced discrimination due to a regional accent. Liverpudlians’ speech specifically has been found to act as a ‘barrier to career progression or social acceptance’, and with an approximate 80% of employers admitting to accent discrimination, this can infringe on life-affecting decisions for speakers.

For some, an accent can aid social mobility and career progression, particularly for those who speak with Received Pronunciation more commonly known as ‘Standard English’ (an equally problematic title that inherently reinforces accent superiority). For others, an accent can uncover a bias which some will simply never face. But what happens when you combine being black into the experience?