The Attempt at Preserving Culture through Code-switching

Regardless of the racial mix, black people have their own cultures. They have their way of doing things that are generic to them.

It’s very common to see a group of black people conversing differently from how they would when they’re among different people. When together, slangs might not be missing from the conversations.

But more often than not, there are lots of times when as a black person, you might be around a gathering of other folks and you have to switch from your way and style of doing things to fit into that accepted by your mixed community. This behaviour is known as code-switching.

Code-switching is a technique of switching from one linguistic code to another depending on the social or conversational setting. It is an attempt to ensure that despite being in a different community, your culture is preserved.

A lot of black people do it at their workplace. When you have to interact with others in your office, you abandon all dynamics, accent, or tonation otherwise natural to you and embrace a different one.

It is also seen among black students that live in communities with two very different cultures. For instance, if you live among your folks but school among a majority of whites, you have to set aside your style of doing things and adapt to their own.

This behaviour originated from a desire to be accepted by the other community. To not be made to feel out of place, or utterly different from the majority. In recent past, a lot of black people have gone ahead to do things their way in other communities but it had not always ended well.

When you find yourself in a community of people that do things differently and you exhibit an alternate pattern of behaviour, odds are you might be a made fun of. Your difference is most often mocked and ridiculed.

Angie Thomas portrays this code switching behavior in her book, The Hate U Give. The main character shifts seamlessly between two cultures and code-switches her way to acceptance. It is a clear attempt of black people to be accepted in a white world yet preserve their cultures all the same.

It might seem a bit like just a language thing but it is a lot more than that. Code-switching is a stab at cultural survival despite all the unfavorable odds and circumstances.

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