What You're Up Against: Code-Switching
A lot of Black girls code-switch. They use the vocabulary, intonation, and articulation deemed proper in a “white space” (“How do you do?”) and only let their guard down around friends and family (“How’s ya day goin’?”). Some of this is natural. No one talks to the principal the same way we talk to a close friend.
But it can be exhausting.
Code-switching is a skill learned out of necessity—not choice. Writer Maya Lewis, for instance, began code-switching when teachers reprimanded the way she spoke, and she decided to hide a piece of herself when she saw how non-Black people responded to her differently (“positively”) whenever she added back the “g’s” to her words and dropped all slang.
It’s not uncommon for Black girls to feel like they have to make others feel comfortable when they’re in a group (especially if that group is made up of people who look nothing like them). They “dim their light” because they feel they cannot be their true selves without sticking out like a sore thumb, and being set aside.
In school and workplace settings, Black girls are often taught they have to be twice as good to go half as far, as they represent the race and are watched more closely than others. These beliefs are not necessarily inaccurate. However, coupled with the Strong Black Woman image, they run an increased risk for social anxiety.
Where have you seen prominent Black people code-switching in the media? What are some reasons a leader would choose to code-switch?
Take a notebook or piece of paper and write down answers to the questions above. Reflect on your writing and think of the moments in your life you have had to code-switch.
Next, repeat this affirmation: "Every day, I take one giant step closer to reaching my goals. I can do anything I set my mind to. I am open to new possibilities and eager to learn as much as I can. I have everything I need right now. I’m doing my best. If I fall, I’ll get back up and keep trying. I can do better next time."
* A creator of safe spaces, and an initiator of difficult conversations, M.J. Fievre, B.S. Ed, spent much time building up her Black students, helping them feel comfortable in their skin, and affirming their identities. Her close relationships with parents and students led her to look more closely at how we can balance protecting our child’s innocence with preparing them for the realities of Black life. When―and how―do you approach racism with your children? How do you protect their physical and mental health while also preparing them for a country full of systemic racism? She began to research the issue and speak to school counselors and psychologists to find (and apply!) strategies parents and teachers can use with their children to broach uncomfortable but necessary topics.
M.J. is the author of Badass Black Girl, a daily dose of affirmations for Black Girls
“You'll come away from Badass Black Girl feeling as if you've known the author your entire life, and it's a rare feat for any writer.” ―“Mike, the Poet,” author of Dear Woman and The Boyfriend Book
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Affirmations for strong, fearless Black girls. Wisdom from Badass Black female trailblazers who accomplished remarkable things in literature, entertainment, education, STEM, business, military and government services, politics and law, activism, sports, spirituality, and more.
Explore the many facets of your identity through hundreds of big and small questions. In this journal designed for teenage Black girls, MJ Fievre tackles topics such as family and friends, school and careers, body image, and stereotypes. By reflecting on these topics, you will confront the issues that can hold you back from living your best life and discovering your Black girl bliss.
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Change the way you view the world. This journal provides words of encouragement that seek to inspire and ignite discussion. You are growing up in a world that tries to tell you how to look and act. MJ Fievre encourages you to fight the flow and determine for yourself who you want to be.
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Build and boost your self-esteem with powerful affirmations
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