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To Codeswitch or not to Codeswitch – That is the Question

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Whenever I hear critiques (from Black people specifically) of celebrities like Leslie Jones, Tiffany Haddish, or Cardi B, my anti-black senses start to vibrate. Some of the critiques of them are fair; however, there is one type of critique in particular that bothers my spirit. It is those critiques that start with the word ‘too’ – too loud, too ghetto, too hood, curses too much or dances too often – that feel like a dog whistle.

We can all agree that all three women share one major attribute – they are their authentic selves all the time, regardless of the audience. We love authenticity, right? So, why are we (not all, but some of us) so uncomfortable with their particular brand of authenticity?

Here is what I think: Most Black people, before we knew what it was called, learned to speak two languages. We learned to speak the relaxed, Black vernacular of our neighborhoods – Ebonics, if you will, or African-American Vernacular English (AAVE), if you prefer – that signals our inclusion within Black culture and acts as a marker of our Blackness. Then, there is our job-interview-school-apple-care-fine-dining language – the language we use when White people are present. We raise our tone, slow our speech, smile, clip the ends of our words, make sure our verbs and subjects align, you know, we speak ‘Proper’ or ‘Standard’ English.

W.E.B. Dubois calls this double consciousness or the notion that as a Black person, your identity is always split; you become a chameleon, shifting and changing to fit the circumstances. You may also have heard this referred to as codeswitching, or the practice of changing one’s language and language pattern to fit the conversation/audience. The act of codeswitching is not necessarily a bad thing; the reason for codeswitching is.  

The act of codeswitching is not necessarily a bad thing; the reason for codeswitching is. Click To Tweet

We have accepted for so long that everything about Blackness, including the way we speak among each other, is inferior. And that’s not our fault, it’s the message we received from our parents and grandparents (who bless their hearts, didn’t know any better, they thought respectability would save us from a lynching). We receive it from media, we receive it from our teachers, from our community, and from our leaders. Anti-blackness isn’t just a standpoint, it’s a way of life.

Think of all the times that some non-Black person takes on a Black persona, almost always they take on a Black-cent, or a mockingly over-emphasized Black vernacular – linguistic minstrelsy at its finest. Think Iggy Azalea, think Steve Martin in Queen Latifah’s movie Bringing Down the House, think Miley Cyrus’ foray into Blackness.

Now back to Leslie, Tiffany, and Belcalis. When Leslie Jones was performing on Comicview and in predominantly Black spaces, we loved her, but when she transitioned to Saturday Night Live and was introduced to broader White audiences, something shifted. When Tiffany Haddish made guest appearances on Real House Husbands of Hollywood, she was our favorite hood star, but now that Tiffany Haddish is starting to grace the couches of Jimmy Fallon and Ellen, something shifted. When Belcalis was a stripper making funny videos on IG, we loved her, but now that she is THE Cardi B, on national commercials as the voice of Alexa, something has shifted. Our support feels apprehensive.

And we all know that feeling, don’t we? That feeling when you are in racially mixed company and your one filter-less friend proceeds to be her or his full filter-less self and then you sort of secretly shrink, you feel a little, embarrassed, maybe? (And if you don’t know that feeling, you might be the filter-less friend.) Or, maybe it’s just me. I mean, all those pesky stereotypes are still floating around, shaming us and shit.

Anyway, I think its brave for these women to be unapologetically who they are all the time. I would really like for Black people en masse to just let them live and stop worrying about the stereotypes. We should protect them at all costs.

Do you codeswitch? Why or why not?

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For The Culture

Caucasian Christian Colonizer Cole LaBrant Catching Criticism for Using Adopted Child as Ottoman for Privileged Daughter

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In today’s segment of Typical White Nonsense, we return to none other than Alabama for the latest act of insensitivity. YouTuber Cole LaBrant uploaded a controversial video of his adopted cousin, a Black boy nicknamed Peanut, being used as a footstool to lift his daughters up to the swings. Although the video has been deleted, it was captured by the entirety of Black Twitter, who assembled to quickly mete out justice.

Having recently trended because of the poor decision to pass one of the nation’s strictest abortion bills, Alabamians have another reason to hide their faces in shame. Youtuber Cole LaBrant, who runs a family channel with his wife and children, shared a video of his Black adopted cousin being used a footstool to his Twitter account. Expecting the video to be received as a warm gesture, Cole quickly realized that a Black boy being pressed into the dirt by the heel of two white girls isn’t exactly the visual we need in 2019.

Although Cole has been racing to clean up his mess, evidence of the misdeed has already made international waves. Catching the immediate ire of Black Twitter, the culture has already rallied and uncovered disgusting liked tweets. An outspoken Christian, Cole has apparently taken “make your enemies a footstool” quite literally as he celebrated the behavior of”Peanut”. Despite there being multiple able-bodied adults in the vicinity, that poor child is the one to “aid” his cousins, who in my opinion didn’t even need his help.

Along with drawing comparisons to behaviors exhibited during slavery, Cole’s actions have prompted a discussion for the argument against transracial adoption. When Black babies end up in white homes, are deprived of the knowledge of their cultural history, and are subjected to treatment like that, it’s the perfect storm for birthing an Uncle Ruckus. They endure psychological abuses and internalize hatred for all that so many of us hold dear. They develop disdain for the elements of Black culture they missed and eventually grow to use the language of the oppressor to justify their prejudices and distance themselves from the community. The fear of “Peanut” facing such a fate has spawned calls for his removal from a potentially dangerous environment.

Has Black Twitter gotten CPS on the line yet?

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Entertainment

Kim Kardashian’s Kredit Belongs to Black Female Attorneys, Activists

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Behind every Kardashian is a Black woman who truly did the work! Yesterday, we reported that Kim Kardashian would be featured in a two-hour documentary chronicling her justice crusade. Now, an attorney and criminal reform advocate a part of the team that REALLY led the efforts has spoken up.

Kim Kardashian arrived at the table when dessert was being served and was given credit for the full meal! The true team of people who put the work in to secure the freedom of Alice Marie Johnson along with the other 16 life sentences, is made predominantly of black women and men.

Fed up with the misinformation people have been spreading on social media, Texas attorney and activist Brittany K. Barnett decided to clear the air. Through two organizations called The Decarceration Collective and the Buried Alive Project, Brittany and her partner, MiAngel Cody, were the driving forces behind the success Kim Kardashian has claimed. Commenting on the silent struggles she has faced, Barnett says she is “coming out of the shadows” and is no longer shying away from their magic in all of its melanin glory.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BuAWwMYDTEi/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

As a co-founder of Buried Alive, Brittany K. Barnett has been invested in the pro bono presentation of federal prison inmates. Changing the lives of nonviolent drug offenders, Brittany has worked to secure the freedom of countless victims of the American justice system. Having experienced firsthand the atrocities mass incarceration inflicts upon families, Brittany has worked tirelessly to free her clients, 37 in total. So when it comes to what exactly Kim Kardashian provided, in short, it was “support”.

https://twitter.com/KimKardashian/status/1124379995143426048

 

 

The use of Kim’s platform was integral in securing funding and spreading the word but the work was done by those behind the non-profits. While Brittany does not harbor any ill-will toward Kim, she is conflicted by reports that Kim led the way. Expressing her frustration, Brittany stated:

Kim has always been very clear in her role. It’s the media that spins it around — not Kim. We do not care how the media is portraying it — that’s what the media does. Who cares. We need Kim’s support and the support of anyone else who wants to join this fight. We love that she is using her platform to raise awareness. We ain’t trying to be famous, we trying to get our people free. Period.”

 

Brittany credits Kim for “linking arms” with them in support when other foundations declined requests for funds. However, TWO black women lawyers are responsible for the 90-day effort to release 17 incarcerated individuals.

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For The Culture

Dear Tiffany Haddish

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