The video below from 20/20 explores linguistic profiling, or whether or not a listener can determine the race of a person by the way they speak. It is true that a person can be quite accurate in their judgments of the race of the unseen speaker.
For one woman, Rosa Rice, the sound of her voice prevented her from being allowed to view a room in a boarding house when she called to inquire about it. Rice then called the St. Louis Equal Housing Opportunity Council (EHOC), who performed an experiment that involved people of different races calling the same renter. The white callers were all told that the room was available, and were asked if they wanted to view the room. The African American callers were all told that there were no rooms left to rent. This looks to me like a case of racial discrimination based on the way a person sounds. That is, callers who were speakers of African American English were not treated as well as those who spoke a more standard dialect of English.
The experiment done by EHOC closely resembles an experiment performed by linguist John Baugh. Baugh looked for rooms for rent in the “housing” section of the newspaper. He then called the numbers three times each, asking if there were any rooms available. In the first call, he used African American English, in the second he used a Latino accent, and in the third he used a more standard dialect of English. According to Baugh, he generally got the most positive response when he used the standard accent, while the minority accents received a more negative response. The following video provides more information about the experiment.
What do you think? Can you tell the race of a person by the way they sound?
Also, check out this link that has 10 different people reading the same phrase, and see if you can tell what race they are by what they sound like.