Code switching, for those of you who don't know, refers to a person's ability to change the language they are speaking, or the dialect they are speaking within one setting. For my husband, code switching is talking to him mom in Dutch on Skype, and then switching to English when the kids join him. I guess you could call my ability to change my vernacular based on whether I am speaking to an American or an Aussie code switching, but that probably doesn't count.
The Key and Peele clip above perfectly illustrates the kind of code switching that is going on in our house the most these days.
Small Sun is finally in an environment at school where is he surrounded by Black kids. Within weeks of school starting, his bouncy walk took on a swagger, and he mastered the "sup?" nod.
Several months in, he is starting to respect his sister's decision that she doesn't like being called "guuurrrrrllllll" all the time.
Here we are, in the midst of a transracial parenting learning curve, and I don't know what to do. I am happy that he is in an environment where he is learning some skills to blend in, and I honestly think that learning this style of speaking is an important one.
At the same time, when he was speaking that way at our (all white) holiday family gatherings, I felt uncomfortable, and had to choose not to correct him. I think I feel like it's fine to talk that way with his friends at school, but in an all white setting, I become uncomfortable.
Is that prejudice on my part? Perhaps.
Is it knowing that in reality, he won't be able to advance in life if he presents himself that way in a job interview or application process? Hm.
Because I am white, and I am not fluent enough in Black American culture, I do not know how this works, and I don't know what Small Sun needs to learn. I don't know how to encourage his budding exploration of language and dialect and style, while also teaching him how to present himself to get ahead.
I know he is 8, and not applying for jobs, but the whole idea of code switching is knowing when to switch, reading your environment and knowing which code to use.
I suppose all parenting presents dilemmas and learning curves where you find yourself at a loss, without all the answers. This is one, particular to transracial parenting, when the family is lacking close friends of color who are willing to act as mentors and guides.
While I struggle to find all the answers, I can find comedic relief in the challenge. Thank you, Key and Peele.