Do you ever find yourself code-switching in the work place or around people who are of a different culture than you?
In a recent episode, we discussed code switching which is a broad word to describe all of the ways in which someone of a minority culture may adjust the ways they speak, dress, and act in situations where another culture is dominant. For many Black people and people of color, this is a familiar experience.
A recognizable form of code switching may come in the form of someone hiding an accent or dialect when they are around people who do not share their language or culture. Other methods of code switching may include someone wearing a different hairstyle or clothing than they normally would depending on the setting. Many people find themselves code switching at work or when they are in a place that is not considered home or familiar.
Code Switching As Self-Protection
On the podcast we discussed the ways in which code switching can serve as a form of self-protection. For someone with an accent for example, code switching and using a "proper" English accent while in American spaces may mean not being put on the spot by coworkers or friends of a different culture. Some people might find it tiring to continuously have to repeat themselves, explain themselves, or find themselves at the center of conversation simply because they don't sound like everyone else.
For those who code switch by dressing or appearing differently in work settings or around dominant cultures, this self protection means not appearing as a target for the bigotry of others. We code switch so that instead of BEING the focus we can focus on the things we have to do and the social interactions we have to endure while away from our safe spaces.
Code Switching As Self-Harm
We also acknowledged the harm that extended periods of code switching can cause when a person does not have frequent access to their safe spaces. Often code switching is happening in a workplace where many of us spend the vast majority of our time. We come home to take our masks of and breathe normally, only to have to zip them back on within a few hours and do it all over again. Eventually, someone may come to the realization that the person they get to be the majority of the time is the version that has been created through code switching. If we don't get to be ourselves for the majority of our day-to-day lives, then when can we be?
Our conversation on code switching brings to the forefront the importance of finding community within our friend groups, at work, and in the places we live. It's important that those of us who are forced to conceal a version of ourselves are able to reveal it to those we care about most. It's equally important that the people in our lives respect the boundaries we set for how we interact so that we can feel safe doing so authentically.
Are you someone who code switches? If so where does it happen most often? Do you think code switching is self-protection or self-harm? Comment below!