Code switching is necessary. At least, that’s what’s gotten me this far. Is it a skill? Probably. Something to acquire and become good at. I’ve always been pretty good with words – a silver tongue it’s called.
“Ay ma, what’s for eat up in here?”
“I already ate. You betta find somethin in here for you starve. You better not go to bed hungry, boy, It aint good for you.”
“Aight mom, I won’t”
“We got some fries you can whip up right quick”
“Aint that what we had yesterday?”
“I don’t even want to hear complaints. It be people in Africa that would eat fries every night.”
“Ugh. I know mom. Fine I will.”
It’s an interesting thing, slang. One can’t be bad at it. The simpler it gets, the easier it is to get the main point across. That is of course, if the person in the conversation is a patron of partial English too. It’s picked up easy, and it’s unique because a deliberate effort is needed to abolish it completely unless one was never influenced by it in the first place. Its staying power is offset by its lack of compulsion. What I mean is, it’s hard for a person that speaks “proper” English (i.e White people) to demote to slang. When talking “proper” it feels irreverently inconvenient. Most words that are effectively condensed in slang feel too deliberate and imposing, almost arrogant to be used in intimate or casual talk.
Unless of course, one is adept at code switching. It’s no longer about “acting white” or “being black”. It’s about getting what, (and who) you want using the right language. As James Baldwin said in his essay “If black English isn’t a language, then tell me, what is?”, …”The price for this is the acceptance, and achievement, of one's temporal identity”. It doesn’t feel natural- to code switch I mean. Or rather it is much more comfortable to stick to one dialect, tone, language, theme, even status quo. For the price of leaving my inner comfort I can excel much better than I ever could restraining to my “Black English”. Not to say Black English is restricting, although, due to specific reasons it should not be used outside of intimate conversation.
When I was young, 5 or 6, everyone spoke it- Black English I mean. I was home within my comfort zone. I had not been exposed to anything else. Back then It was fine to have one mindset, one code, and to be ignorant of any other was not only acceptable, but sadly widespread within my community. At that age, of course, my community did not consist of many people outside of my family. Then there was school. School is a place where solitude was only obtainable through great effort. There was always a curious boy or girl who wanted to know what another name. To my credit, I wasn’t the least bit shy. If I was I most likely would not have the skills I do. I probably wouldn’t even attend the school I do now.
When I got a little older, I started to realize just how important code switching was. I was about 9 or 10 when I saw just how “clicks” formed. Similar people grouping together to for stable community inside one dysfunctional one. I noticed how different they were. Separated by music choice, neighborhoods, earlier childhood relations, even as general as gender. Usually one would blend into one that fit his or her category. Not me. Now 12 and 13 I watched, observed the wildlife in their artificial habitat.