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  • I used to have this recurring dream

  • where I'd walk into a room full of people,

  • and I'd try not to make eye contact with anyone.

  • Until someone notices me,

  • and I just panic.

  • And the person walks up to me,

  • and says, "Hi, my name is So-and-so.

  • And what is your name?"

  • And I'm just quiet, unable to respond.

  • After some awkward silence, he goes,

  • "Have you forgotten your name?"

  • And I'm still quiet.

  • And then, slowly, all the other people in the room begin to turn toward me

  • and ask, almost in unison,

  • (Voice-over, several voices) "Have you forgotten your name?"

  • As the chant gets louder, I want to respond, but I don't.

  • I'm a visual artist.

  • Some of my work is humorous,

  • and some is a bit funny but in a sad way.

  • And one thing that I really enjoy doing

  • is making these little animations

  • where I get to do the voice-over for all kinds of characters.

  • I've been a bear.

  • Bear: Hi.

  • (Laughter)

  • I've been a whale.

  • Whale: Hi.

  • (Laughter)

  • I've been a greeting card.

  • Greeting card: Hi.

  • (Laughter)

  • And my personal favorite is Frankenstein's monster.

  • (Video) Frankenstein's monster: (Grunts)

  • (Laughter)

  • I just had to grunt a lot for that one.

  • A few years ago, I made this educational video

  • about the history of video games.

  • And for that one, I got to do the voice of Space Invader.

  • Space Invader: Hi.

  • A dream come true, really.

  • (Laughter)

  • And when that video was posted online,

  • I just sat there on the computer, hitting "refresh,"

  • excited to see the response.

  • The first comment comes in.

  • Comment: Great job.

  • Yes!

  • I hit "refresh."

  • Comment: Excellent video. I look forward to the next one.

  • This was just the first of a two-part video.

  • I was going to work on the second one next.

  • I hit "refresh."

  • Comment: Where is part TWO? WHEREEEEE? I need it NOWWWWW!: P

  • (Laughter)

  • People other than my mom were saying nice things about me

  • on the Internet!

  • It felt like I had finally arrived.

  • I hit "refresh."

  • Comment: His voice is annoying. No offense.

  • OK, no offense taken. Refresh.

  • Comment: Could you remake this without peanut butter in your mouth?

  • OK, at least the feedback is somewhat constructive, right? Hit "refresh."

  • Comment: Please don't use this narrator again

  • u can barely understand him.

  • Refresh.

  • Comment: Couldn't follow because of the Indian accent.

  • OK, OK, OK, two things.

  • Number one, I don't have an Indian accent,

  • I have a Pakistani accent, OK?

  • And number two, I clearly have a Pakistani accent.

  • (Laughter)

  • But comments like that kept coming in,

  • so I figured I should just ignore them

  • and start working on the second part of the video.

  • I recorded my audio,

  • but every time I sat down to edit,

  • I just could not do it.

  • Every single time, it would take me back to my childhood,

  • where I had a much harder time speaking.

  • I've stuttered for as long as I can remember.

  • I was the kid in class

  • who would never raise his hand when he had a question --

  • or knew the answer.

  • Every time the phone rang,

  • I would run to the bathroom so that I would not have to answer it.

  • If it was for me, my parents would say that I'm not around.

  • I spent a lot of time in the bathroom.

  • And I hated introducing myself,

  • especially in groups.

  • I'd always stutter on my name, and there was usually someone who'd go,

  • "Have you forgotten your name?"

  • And then everybody would laugh.

  • That joke never got old.

  • (Laughter)

  • I spent my childhood feeling that if I spoke,

  • it would become obvious that there was something wrong with me,

  • that I was not normal.

  • So I mostly stayed quiet.

  • And so you see, eventually for me to even be able to use my voice in my work

  • was a huge step for me.

  • Every time I record audio,

  • I fumble my way through saying each sentence many, many times,

  • and then I go back in

  • and pick the ones where I think I suck the least.

  • (Voice-over) Audio editing is like Photoshop for your voice.

  • I can slow it down, speed it up, make it deeper, add an echo.

  • And if I stutter along the way, and if I stutter along the way,

  • I just go back in and fix it.

  • It's magic.

  • And so using my highly edited voice in my work

  • was a way for me to finally sound normal to myself.

  • But after the comments on the video,

  • it no longer made me feel normal.

  • And so I stopped using my voice in my work.

  • Since then, I've thought a lot about what it means to be normal.

  • And I've come to understand

  • that "normal" has a lot to do with expectations.

  • Let me give you an example.

  • I came across this story

  • about the Ancient Greek writer, Homer.

  • Now, Homer mentions very few colors in his writing.

  • And even when he does,

  • he seems to get them quite a bit wrong.

  • For example, the sea is described as wine red,

  • people's faces are sometimes green and sheep are purple.

  • But it's not just Homer.

  • If you look at all of the ancient literature --

  • Ancient Chinese, Icelandic, Greek, Indian

  • and even the original Hebrew Bible --

  • they all mention very few colors.

  • And the most popular theory for why that might be the case

  • is that cultures begin to recognize a color

  • only once they have the ability to make that color.

  • So basically, if you can make a color,

  • only then can you see it.

  • A color like red, which was fairly easy for many cultures to make --

  • they began to see that color fairly early on.

  • But a color like blue, which was much harder to make --

  • many cultures didn't begin to learn how to make that color

  • until much later.

  • They didn't begin to see it until much later as well.

  • So until then, even though a color might be all around them,

  • they simply did not have the ability to see it.

  • It was invisible.

  • It was not a part of their normal.

  • And that story has helped put my own experience into context.

  • So when I first read the comments on the video,

  • my initial reaction was to take it all very personally.

  • But the people commenting did not know

  • how self-conscious I am about my voice.

  • They were mostly reacting to my accent,

  • that it is not normal for a narrator to have an accent.

  • But what is normal, anyway?

  • We know that reviewers will find more spelling errors in your writing

  • if they think you're black.

  • We know that professors are less likely to help female or minority students.

  • And we know that resumes with white-sounding names

  • get more callbacks than resumes with black-sounding names.

  • Why is that?

  • Because of our expectations of what is normal.

  • We think it is normal

  • when a black student has spelling errors.

  • We think it is normal

  • when a female or minority student does not succeed.

  • And we think it is normal

  • that a white employee is a better hire than a black employee.

  • But studies also show that discrimination of this kind,

  • in most cases, is simply favoritism,

  • and it results more from wanting to help people that you can relate to

  • than the desire to harm people that you can't relate to.

  • And not relating to people starts at a very early age.

  • Let me give you an example.

  • One library that keeps track of characters

  • in the children's book collection every year,

  • found that in 2014, only about 11 percent of the books

  • had a character of color.

  • And just the year before, that number was about eight percent,

  • even though half of American children today come from a minority background.

  • Half.

  • So there are two big issues here.

  • Number one, children are told that they can be anything,

  • they can do anything,

  • and yet, most stories that children of color consume

  • are about people who are not like them.

  • Number two is that majority groups don't get to realize

  • the great extent to which they are similar to minorities --

  • our everyday experiences, our hopes,

  • our dreams, our fears,

  • and our mutual love for hummus.

  • It's delicious!

  • (Laughter)

  • Just like the color blue for Ancient Greeks,

  • minorities are not a part of what we consider normal,

  • because normal is simply a construction of what we've been exposed to,

  • and how visible it is around us.

  • And this is where things get a bit difficult.

  • I can accept the preexisting notion of normal -- that normal is good,

  • and that anything outside of that very narrow definition of normal is bad.

  • Or, I can challenge that preexisting notion of normal

  • with my work,

  • and with my voice,

  • and with my accent,

  • and by standing here onstage,

  • even though I'm scared shitless and would rather be in the bathroom.

  • (Laughter)

  • (Applause)

  • Sheep: And so, I'm now slowly starting to use my voice

  • in my work again.

  • And it feels good.

  • It does not mean I won't have a breakdown

  • the next time a couple dozen people say that I

  • (Mumbling) talk like I have peanut butter in my mouth.

  • (Laughter)

  • It just means I now have a much better understanding

  • of what's at stake,

  • and how giving up is not an option.

  • The Ancient Greeks didn't just wake up one day and realize

  • that the sky was blue.

  • It took centuries, even, for humans to realize what we had been ignoring

  • for so long.

  • And so, we must continuously challenge our notion of normal,

  • because doing so is going to allow us as a society

  • to finally see the sky for what it is.

  • Characters: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  • Frankenstein's monster: (Grunts)

  • (Laughter)

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

I used to have this recurring dream

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【TED】Safwat Saleem: Why I keep speaking up, even when people mock my accent (Why I keep speaking up, even when people mock my accent | Safwat Saleem)

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    林敬文 posted on 2017/03/21
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