The Three Personas

¨ Who is it?¨

¨Ummm, someone named Charles.¨

¨Oh, that’s my client from work. Here, pass me my phone.¨

I grab her purse and blindly forage for her phone.

¨C’mon hurry up!¨

¨Wait a minute...almost got it¨

I quickly hand her the device and watch as she answers the man on the other side of the line.

¨Hello? Charles?  Why yes, this is Amy Silveri from Quality Progressions…. Pardon? Yes, I will be visiting your house for a brief meeting regarding the placement of your child...¨

This is a daily routine that I see everyday with the interaction I have with my mom. Now anyone who’s grown up in a black household knows that they’re parents always change the way they talk depending on who they’re talking too and depending on that person’s race. For years I’ve heard my mom’s voice change from her work environment to her social environment. And it wasn’t until recently where I’ve noticed that I do this as well.

There are three types of Jaiye’s.

The white Jaiye.

The black Jaiye.

And the regular Jaiye.

The white Jaiye can be described as the voice I use when I talk to everyday white people. White people I see at school, who I see at supermarkets, who I see walking down the street. My voice suddenly becomes higher and softer and my vocabulary immediately advances. I speak more slowly and my facial expression changes. I make sure to smile and to always appear happy, as if everything is going great. And as I’m doing this, I think to myself, ¨ I hope they don’t think I’m ghetto.¨ and all the other negative stereotypes attributed with blacks. As soon as a white person speaks to me my brain instantaneously reminds myself to ¨Change your voice!¨, and in doing this I automatically become a new person, a new identity, an alternate self. It all becomes a facade.

The black Jaiye is alternately, the voice I use with my blacks peers. It’s the voice where I’m most comfortable with. It allows me to express my individuality better and I feel more accepted with the fact that I’m black. I feel more connected with my roots and the life that we as blacks live. My words become a constant blur; I talk faster, louder and I use slang. ¨Hi¨ or ¨hello¨, becomes ¨Yo¨ or ¨wassup¨. ¨Isn’t¨ becomes ¨ain’t¨.  I use words like ¨jawn¨ and ¨drawlin’¨, words that are indigenous to Philly and that I hear everyday . My native tongue.

And the regular Jaiye is a combination of the two. My language neither leans towards the white dialect or the black dialect. My tongue isn’t biased. I find myself using this the most throughout my everyday life. It has the perfect amount of respect and proper mannerism yet it still holds onto my personality and characteristics that derived from me being African American. The slang and the style is still there yet there’s a proper sophistication in the way that I enunciate the words as they leave my mouth. In doing so, I’m not judged for being too black or too white; too ¨ghetto¨”or too ¨snobby¨.

Throughout my entire life I’ve always had these different personas and evidently, the reasons why I code switch is because of the influence that language and dialect has on today’s society and the way we are viewed as people, especially for a young  African American woman in America.

James Baldwin, a well known African American writer who tackled the topics of race and oppression as well as the topic of African Americans in the white man’s society, wrote an essay on the influence of language on blacks in America and how it has influenced the way we live today. He explained that the way we speak, impacts the social recognition of African Americans, as well as other people of color, stating that, ¨It goes without saying, then, that language is also a political instrument, means, and proof of power. It is the most vivid and crucial key to identify: It reveals the private identity, and connects one with, or divorces one from, the larger, public, or communal identity.¨ Our language, dialect and accent gives us power in this world.  As black Americans, it is prime that we remind ourselves to code switch,  in a society where the mass majority does not see us as intelligent or deemed fit enough into today’s society and a primary reason for this is because of the way we speak. Brought over to this country as slaves, English was never our original language nor was our dialects natural to English. We all developed various accents that people would describe as ¨ghetto¨ and for that, the world views us as ignorant belligerent fools who deserve no chances in life. In doing so, we retain back all power lost and all of the stereotypes pin-pointed towards us are then withdrawn.

As for most blacks, code switching isn't something that we want to do. It’s something that we’re forced to do to reject oppression. People tend to judge us off of our tongue and because of that, we do not get the same opportunities as others. Because of this, the vast majority of blacks live in a life reflected upon poverty, imprisonment, drugs and negativity. But who are we to change who we are to fit the social norm? It is not our fault that we speak like this. We were forced to, and in the end, we've adapted the various dialects and accents that travel across this country. Code-switching is appropriate when needed, but don’t change the way you speak entirely. Language mirrors identity.

Comments (7)

Myi Harte (Student 2017)
Myi Harte

what really grabbed me in the essay was the title ¨the three personas’. I learned that you talk different ways to people because of their looks or yours. what you could have add was a small talk between you and derent people that show the difference in the speech

Cameron Samodai (Student 2017)
Cameron Samodai

I liked that you started your essay with dialogue. I learned some of the reasoning behind code switching because of your essay. You could add some examples of dialogue for all three Jaiyes.

Pedro Castillo (Student 2017)
Pedro Castillo

This is a very strong writing piece in my opinion and it grabbed my attention as soon as I saw the dialogue. I felt surprised when you stated your different "personas" because I'm more accustomed to seeing the regular Jaiye. You did a great job with balancing out anecdote and reflection but you could have added more backstory. Great job though I really liked this piece.

Benjamin Fink (Student 2017)
Benjamin Fink
  1. I was grabbed by by the author's descriptions of the three sides to her language; the white, black, and regular Jaiyes.

  2. I learned that the author does not want people to believe that the African-American stereotypes apply to her as well.

  3. She could create some quotes to reinforce how the three types of Jaiyes speak.

Nyla Moore (Student 2017)
Nyla Moore

Great essay! Something that me in this essay was how you used your mom's example to relate back to you. I also enjoyed how you said you had three different sides to you. I think a lot of people including myself can relate.

Imani Weeks (Student 2017)
Imani Weeks

This essay was really interesting. What grabbed me was when you talked about the different personas you present depending on the situation. Something new I learned is that you see and recognize when you code switch. I think something that could be added is if you talked a bit more on each persona.

Jason Greene (Student 2017)
Jason Greene

I enjoyed reading this essay a lot. I liked how you talked about there are three Jaiye's. That your voice changes depending on who you are talking to and what race they are. I do this myself. Great essay.