A friend between cultures...

Jordan McLaughlin

Silver Stream           


I’m fifteen now, I recall when I was twelve when my friend and I were playing basketball. I’m from chestnut hill a place that is looked at by others as a place for the rich. My friend grew up in Elkins Park, a suburban but tough neighborhood, now he lives in Mount Airy with his dad. He is Mexican-American adopted in Texas, and I am White. We were both raised with the same goal in mind. Respecting people and to not insult others, and be mannerly. His dad is very good at basketball coaching and teaches others how to play the game for real, not street ball, proper basketball. When my friend was in 8th grade and I was in 7th we used to play basketball together. I never play basketball except with my friend.


“You got nutin,” My friend told me.

“Bring it, I will beat if it kills me,” I replied.

“You suck yo.”

“Can you not call me yo.”

“I only say yo to my brotha’s.”

“So I’m one of your brothaaa’s”

“Why do you speak like your black? I know that you’re not a thug,” I questioned my friend.


At the time I was smaller and I found myself saying things that weren’t necessarily true, I would often listen to stereotypes, and I wasn’t around a lot of black people in junior high because I went to a mostly white private school. He always used to use slang on the court, he wanted a to be black because he thought he was cool.  That’s when I realized that the way a person talks identifies them with a culture my friend obviously wanted to be identified as black although he was not. I decided to let my friend think what he wanted, since he had these phases that he went through.


Today he has gone to greater extents, not being a phase but a part of himself, when we talk he talks black English because he wants to sound tough, he wants to impress the girls at his school.


“I was talkin this girl at my school yo, and she was like I can’t go out wit you if you have a girl friend, and I was like naw its high school im not a pimp that’s just what we do these days you know what im saying,” my friend told me.

“Why would you say that to a girl?” I questioned his stupidity.

“Cause I like her dawg.”

“You can’t go out with another girl if you have a girlfriend.”

“Sikee naw, yeah you can.”

“Not where we are from.”

“Dey just backup’s dawg. You be drawlin”

“I’m not drawlin dude I just don’t want you to turn out bad is all. You’re my best friend I don’t want you to not get into college. The way you talk its like you are bringing yourself down. You know if you speak proper English you will get a job and get into a good college. When you interview at college are you gonna talk the way you are now?”

“Your crazy dawg, when I go to interview at college I won’t talk like dis you know.”

“So what are you trying to impress me?”

“No this is just we talk dees days.”

“Who’s we?”

“Me and my homies.”

“My homies and I.”

“What eve yo, get off my back.”

“Your right, you should be able to do what ever you want.”


The way a person speaks can alter the way a person is viewed by others. Many times people that use urban slang are often looked down upon. Although people speak different variations of the English language, English is English. People that speak Black English are defining their culture by using their voice as powerful tool that ultimately defines their person. According to James Baldwin, “What joins all languages, and all men, is the necessity to confront life, in order, not inconceivably, to outwit death: The price for this is the acceptance, and achievement of one’s temporal identity.”  The usage of language is a necessity and without it man can’t function. People that speak variations of English use it because it is a cultural standard, but also because it is the way to communicate with other people within their same community. People like my friend have used Black English, and urban slang in modern times, for ease of communicating with their peers. My friend has embraced the African-American culture and since he’s always around black people he has chosen to use Black English.