Code switching: we know about it, we might not like it, but we do it anyway. Its truest definition refers to changing language, syntax and diction in certain conversational contexts, but it’s also applicable to our behaviors. Our colloquialisms change when we’re with a group of girlfriends versus when we’re at work.
I’m suggesting we try something new: #CurvetheCodeSwitch. Dismiss the idea of changing your authenticity in certain situations in the same way that you dismiss rude strangers who catcall you on the street. Black women should be unapologetically themselves in all situations whether they involve significant others, struggles in the workplace and even with our parents.
Here are some scenarios and suggestions to #CurvetheCodeSwitch:
When you’re trying to evade the ‘angry black woman’ Stereotype, but you’re actually mad:
You know that guy that catcalls you and insists on harassing you for your number? Or the guy that says, “Smile baby, you’re too beautiful to be angry.” Yeah, him. Just tell him, “I am not interested.” Or just keep it moving.
We don’t have to live out our days with a smile plastered on our face to appease men, or anyone really. Nor do you need to code switch and overcompensate for how you might feel in a given situation. Do you, boo.
When you are Prepping for a job interview/professional setting And you feel like you should’ve made a blowout appointment:
Commit to your true self. Some of us mute our fabulosity and fervor, fearing that our blackness unequivocally invalidates our potential. If you normally rock a twist-out, don’t feel obligated to press out your hair. If you think the company could diversify and benefit from a black woman’s perspective, explicate that thought. Your presence is necessary. Be professional and be yourself!
When you’re with your melanin-less friends and you feel like you have to be the voice of black culture:
Although some white people might find our realities perplexing, it does not change the fact that we have our realities. Explain that and move on. Although it’s great to share different cultural experiences, there’s a difference between advocating on behalf of an entire diaspora, and talking about your personal experiences as a black woman.
Yes, every black person you know might apply lotion head-to-toe after each shower — but that’s not necessarily the national black narrative, nor is it something you should feel like you should have to explain because white people don’t understand. And no, my hair is not your petting zoo, but that doesn’t mean your homegirl would have the same sentiments, she might not mind people running through her roots.
If these things come up in conversation, just be real. They might question you, but real friends will ultimately understand and honor your lifestyle without seeing you as the face of blackness in America.
When you have something to say about white people, but you’re on the white side of town:
I was at brunch at a majority white restaurant with my girlfriend the other day and she was lamenting her single status. She told me about how she and her few black female classmates in medical school are all overwhelmingly single, while her white female classmates are married, engaged or boo-ed up. While discussing the differences between her single black classmates and taken white ones, she dramatically lowered her voice.
SPEAK UP, ladies. The truth is 60 percent of college-educated black women between the ages of 25 and 35 remain unmarried. And even without statistical backing, speaking from your own experiences is always valid. No need to ever lower your voice in a room full of white people, especially when you’re speaking the truth. Evolution (and relationships) are sparked by open and honest conversation.
When you bring your ‘akata’ friends to meet your very West African parents:
To be real, African parents show no mercy when it comes to Black American culture and your indoctrination of such. Don’t let them catch you slipping while on the phone saying, “girrrrrllll, I’m skipping class tomorrow.” No, you will not; not if Mama Fatumu has anything to say.
As first and second generation kids, we make friends with people of all races, creeds and backgrounds. Own that. Your worldview is more expansive based on that fact. Your parents will insert commentary about your ‘akata’ behavior, but if you remain respectful, continue eating your mother’s jollof rice (no matter how old you are) and take your behind to class, they’ll eventually accept you and all of your friends’ cultural distinctions. Embrace that you have footing in two cultures and avoid feeling like you have to shake off your Americanized culture when you get home. The world will adapt to you.
Have any other ways you can help your sistas #CurvetheCodeSwitch? Share in the comments below!