“Yo Jul! You commin’ to go play ball latah?”
“After school, we haven a stream game.”
“Oh arright, sounds chillin brah. Imma fry! just watch!”
Being asked to go play basketball by my friends was something that pretty much never happened to me before I went to SLA. When I started going to high school, everyone was always talking about basketball: basketball video games, SLA’s basketball team, college basketball, but mainly the NBA. It was really different for me because nobody in my household was really into basketball. My parents are from Iran and Italy so the main sport in our house was soccer, but there was also a lot of American football because of the Philadelphia Eagles’ success when I was younger. However, basketball never really came up until the middle of 8th grade; maybe because only a select few of my classmates followed it or maybe because the Philadelphia basketball team had been playing very poorly lately. Anyways, during my last year in middle school, I started playing occasionally and watching Philadelphia 76ers games when I had the time or did not forget about them. Then, when I went to high school, I was surrounded by such a basketball enthusiastic community that I developed an obsession with it too. Of course I rooted for the Philadelphia 76ers because I have “Philly pride,” even though they had not been doing so well. Once my close friends realized that I really liked basketball, they started inviting me to games and gave me a chance. I had never been that good at playing but I always had a great time. As weeks and months went by I started talking like my basketball friends did. I picked up on all the terms that they used on and off the court and in a way they started accepting me more. It was like I became one of them. Speaking in that manner was becoming who I was. I would use them all the time; at home, school, with my friends. The year before that I did not really talk with that much slang and modern expressions. It would even effect the music I listened to; it got to the point where I could sing along to rap songs with my friends. When my older brother got back from college for Christmas break, he was very surprised and thought I had changed. It was odd for him because I balance in between my original self and the new person I changed to. I would go up to my friends that use very proper english all the time and mess with them by using slang. They would either react by laughing because in their minds it was different or weird for a “white boy” to be speaking like that or they would just feel awkward and not say anything. I became the “go-to guy” for those friends when they did not understand what somebody said.
“Yo she bad for real!” Jaaz said.
“Hey Julian,” Emalyn whispered “What does he even mean!?”
“He’s is trying to say that she is hot or pretty” I responded. This was different for me because nobody really asks me about what things means unless it is in another language or about sports.
Then one day at school things changed.
“Yo Nigga whatchu up to after school?”
“I’m not sure yet man, but yo I’m white.”
“Naw Nigga you black! You an inside out Oreo!”I never really thought that would happen and frankly I did not exactly understand why. I did not ever think that the way I talked or the music I listened to or the sports I played could influence some one to call me a “Nigga.” Personally, when I speak, I do not use that word at all. It surprised me that the way one pronounces things and speaks can cause somebody to refer to that person as something that they are not, based on what society racially profiles them as. This showed me how language and how we all use it has an effect on how people think of us. I never hated it when they called me that but I never pushed them to call me that more. I just let it be, because I know my friends use that term to show me that they accept me and that they have respect for me. Now a days, that is what that word can refer to.
I feel like the use of bad words or derogatory expressions have become part of our everyday language in my high school community. On the other hand, I find my parents using curse words very seldom. For them, it is only necessary to make them a part of their vocabulary when they are in rough situations, but my classmates and I use them as a way to express ourselves at any point in the day. There have been times where a curse word or two slipped out in front of my parents. Since my brothers and I are maturing they do not usually “freak out” but they do not encourage speaking in that manner. I also feel like it is not right to go home after a long day of school and say all types of profanity in the presence of your parents. This why my conversations with my friends at school can sound very different than with my mom or dad, even if we are talking about the same thing.
I feel comfortable talking to my friends like that because they are part of this generation as well. “Fuck this bullshit. Bullshit of course is everything you and the others fear is beyond you: books, essays, tests...”(I Just Wanna be Average by Mike Rose). That is something that I would say to my peers at school if I feel that certain way, but never to my parents. Even if I was okay with saying anything like that to either one of my parents, they would still not comprehend the slang and expression that I use regularly.
I conclude that society and age affects language. Communication is something used everyday and how we use it can have an impact on our personalities. Language can influence someone and their relationship with other people. All these experiences changed who I am and how people view me.