There’s More Than One Way to Codeswitch

Here are four examples

Hello friends,

There’s been a lot of talk recently - as there always is - about code switching or, as I think of it, Black and Brown people contorting themselves into boxes to fit in with norms created by and for whiteness. Language is my jam - I have more than a passing familiarity with a couple of Caribbean Creole languages, and once was fluent in a couple of European languages. So switching linguistically is natural for me.

But for Black people, codeswitching isn’t just about changing the way we speak, though I’ll get back to that. There are all sorts of other ways in which we make ourselves less than we are to fit into some perceived notion of professionalism or decorum that’s often rooted in white supremacy.

Codeswitching with hair

Let’s start from the top down - with our hair. This idea that Black hair is unprofessional or untidy happens in a lot of white majority spaces. There are hundreds of stories of people being asked to “do something with their hair”. And that something was to make it comply more with European norms. Most Black women of a certain age remember the pain when the relaxer stayed in a little too long; some are still going through that today. All of that just to make our hair more “acceptable”, no matter how much personal or emotional pain it caused us.

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