When I was about 11 or 12 I thought my brother was two different people. At church, his friends were all African-American and he appeared to be more loose, funny and alive. Someone once made a joke that went like “Knock knock.” Then he said, “It’s open!” We all laughed for about 2 minutes under our breaths before an older lady with a large white hat would hit one of us. That made everyone instantly be quiet. While at his robotics events that my family and I would attend it was like he was a queen’s guard. His actions in this environment were much more remote. I had assumed it was because this is how you were suppose to act in a more professional setting. It was odd but I could tell he wasn’t the only one around me that switched, but my mother also did. For example, depending on who called her she would answer the phone differently. Either she would change her voice or say her full name “Hello it’s Myracherisse Holland.”
I asked them both why do they change when they talk to certain people. My mother told me “You have to act on their level in order to fit in.” Then my brother said that that’s why he’s having a hard time deciding between attending a Private White Institution or Historically Black College/University. Attending a HBCU would include being around people that understand some of the experiences of being an African-American male in society. While also not getting all the opportunities that could be open to him if he attended a PWI. However, it would be a constant trial of trying to relate to everyone else and fit in.
Which made me question, what factors determine if ‘code switching’ should be used? In what type of environments insists for you to ‘code switch’? Also is it necessary? According to my family members it’s necessary in order to reach for better positions in the workforce that most African-Americans don’t achieve. Such as a CEO over a Fortune 500 company, high ranked positions under an office environment or etc.
I tugged at my feelings about this because a part of me did agree that there were certain situations that you may have to change yourself. Such as showing you that you are the best candidate for the position in a group interview. A well-known statement in other words for this fraudulence is used the statement ‘fake it til’ you make it” Which implies that impersonating who you are until you achieve a good opportunity, is the way to get what you want. This idea can definitely have an impact on who you think you are or where you think you belong.
Not too long after the conversation with my mom and brother, I noticed that I also have some of the same code switching tendencies. For example some of my peers have even called me an ‘Oreo.’ The reason was because I am an African-American and a majority of African-Americans speak using a vernacular. Coinciding with the idea of speaking proper English correlates to being white. Although we call America a melting pot, things such as speaking articulately or dressing nicely correlates to being white?
As for my brother, he did go to what would be considered a white institution although it is a public university. A source from Penn admissions and university statistics state, “...have a majority rate of 69.9% white students compared to a 6.9% of African-Americans” ("Admission and University Statistics." At Penn State. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2015. <http://admissions.psu.edu/apply/statistics/>.) He believed that choosing Penn State over Tuskegee would provide better internships and a higher chance of getting a job after college. While a study by Young Invincibles states that “The findings aren’t incredibly surprising, considering that black millennials are more than two times more likely to face unemployment than their white counterparts, at 16.6 percent compared to 7.1 percent.” (Cadet, Danielle. "A Black Male With A Degree And A White High School Grad Have The Same Chances Of Getting A Job." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2015. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/27/racial-education-gap_n_5537530.html>.)
My overall message was to display the factors of code switching and how it can impact your future under a dominant culture capital. By looking at the statistics and experiences, I drew an inference that, many African-Americans have a much harder time getting a job or internship because they aren’t equipped with the same opportunities to better their future as white-americans. Whom can achieve job experience or an internship more easily because employers are willing to hire them for their connections and references to better the company’s opportunities. Now making it a mainstream societal concept to hire white-americans over African-Americans.
Returning to my brother’s choice between a PWI or HBCU, which both have their pros and cons. Primarily attending a PWI provides better chances of getting a well-known company to intern with. As a con would be the difficulty of finding a friend who might be like you, in the instance of experience. In contrast to attending a HBCU where a pro would be being around people you can relate to some cultural experiences. In addition to connecting with more businesses owned by African-Americans. While a con would be losing more opportunities to join more selective programs owned by a dominant culture capital environment. As for my brother, his opportunities depend on how much and how hard he’s worked since he attended Penn State.
So in a real-life example, his ability to code switch can advance his chance entering a more selective program or internship. Yet, at the same time there will always be a chance that there’s a white-american looking at the same program who could obtain/attain it. Because we follow a dominant capital cultural system, where white-americans have a higher percentage of receiving a position than African-Americans.
(Cadet, Danielle. "A Black Male With A Degree And A White High School Grad Have The Same Chances Of Getting A Job." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2015. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/27/racial-education-gap_n_5537530.html>.)("Admission and University Statistics." At Penn State. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2015. <http://admissions.psu.edu/apply/statistics/>.)