I grew up in a home of verbal intellect and verbal ignorance. The mixture was very well blended, but very hard to manage. I was taught many ways of expression. I was taught that when speaking to someone of importance or older age you address them as Ms., Mrs., or Mr. to show respect. I was taught black dialect and how to use it in my everyday life... but only with the people who looked like me. I was taught when it was and wasn’t the right time to express my feelings. I also learned very early on that the way you say something no matter your tone of voice or creative way you put words together, meant everything. Those words build you. They hurt you and help you. They cause you to judge and are the first way for someone to judge you.I grew up watching my mother switch from ignorance to sophistication. When she got to work, had to call companies for bills, order anything from someone who lacked color she often fixed her voice. Her “hey girls” and “that sh*t is crazy” went to “hello ms. such and such” and “this is completely absurd and unneeded.” Her “yeah’s” transformed into “yes” and I never fully understood the relationship language played until now. I’ve realized that speaking “ignorant” is just like black dialect. It’s where people make up their own ways of expressing what they want to say, and just because it isn’t standard english it’s considered wrong. We tend to think of sophistication of this standard language. This is what gets people their jobs and helps them make a living. This is what we depend on and accept without knowing the consequences it supplies to people.
I’ve come to realize that yes, the language we speak is one part of our communication, but there are other things that compliment it as well. We’ve got the power to determine how people judge us, but for people my color, I feel as if we don’t. I feel that when we’re talking to white people we completely change ourselves. Our bodies may be loose when we talk to our friends because we’re comfortable, but when that moment comes that we have to talk to someone who’ll judge and prevent our futures, we might stiffen up and become dull. I’ve seen it happen with my mother. She’s one of the most energetic people you’ll meet, but when the times comes for her to consult with someone who lacks color, her voice changes to one of profession and her body is up tight in person.You could say that I’m truly my mothers child. I code switch just as often but I’ve realized that language can shape you into so many things. It causes you to adapt to things or oppressions you probably didn’t want to adapt to. It can also cause you to be associated with something that does not represent you at all. So you’re stuck. Gloria Anzaldua once said “Who is to say that robbing a people of its language is less violent than war?” She was correct. The larger idea of control is what overcomes the people. People are robbed of their heritage, forced to change to fit the criteria of what “they” make seem correct in all aspects.
It’s like you either have to become part of the oppression or stay ignorant to society. I don’t like the idea of being oppressed or having to prove myself to other people. If I want to say “ain’t” instead of “didn’t” then let me be. It isn’t fair that I have to fix the way I speak to meet someone’s expectations. I don’t want to be judged. I don’t want to betray myself or my ancestors by becoming into this “white speaking” robot that society tried to mold me into. But the reality of the situation is that I HAVE to. If I want to be successful and be able to provide for my family, i’ll just have to adjust to this miscarriage of fairness and continue living my life but speaking the way they want me to. But in that same breath I’ll always remind myself that no one else is like me and that I design myself. I’ll forever have a choice in what I want to say and how I have to say it, but given certain situations I may have to adjust. I love the way I speak and I love the way I can diversitize my language to benefit myself.
Anzaldua, Gloria. Borderlands/La Frontera. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books, 1999. Print.