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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

LeBron James Opened an $8 Million School?!

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TIME

LeBron James just opened an $8 million public school called I Promise, where kids will have access to free bikes, free meals, free uniforms, free transportation within 2 miles, and much more! The school is for at-risk students in Akron, Ohio who are usually overlooked.

Twitter loved this news. A few even called for LeBron to replace Betsy Devos, the current Secretary of Education.

While many celebrated the opening of this school, many also rightfully noted that no one person should have access to that much money or be in control of the lives of that many students. This led to many discussing socialism and what this type of school could look like if not funded by a private citizen.

 

What are your thoughts on the school? This is overall a great thing, but do you think celebrities, or any rich person, should be able to hoard enough money to do this on their own?

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Huffington Post’s ‘Black Voices’ Gets Called Out For Having White Writers

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Lara Witt-Twitter

Lara Witt—editor of the feminist publication, Wear Your Voice Magazine—pointed out on Twitter that majority of the writers for the Huffington Post’s Black Voices editorial are…white.

The editor for Black Voices, Taryn Finley, is a Black woman, a Delta, and a Howard University graduate. How is it that the company felt comfortable enough hiring what seems like a token Black person to run the site, but did not feel the need to pay other Black writers to be a contributor? Black Voices claims to be sharing “our news” and “our voices,” but this cannot be true when it is non-Black people who are writing the stories. No matter how much Taryn edits for them, the stories are still not ours.

We have seen time and time again how white people will slap the word “Black” on a source of entertainment and feel justified in keeping their voices centered in that space. We’ve seen it with Viacom through BET and now we see it through Black Voices, which is owned and, apparently, operated by white people. If Huffington Post wants to fix this, they need to hire Black writers. There is nothing else to it.

 

Thoughts?

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A Black President Before A Black Photographer: Vogue, This Ain’t It

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126 years and Vogue has never had a black cover photographer… The United States of America and all of its racism elected a Black president before Vogue allowed a Black photographer to shoot for their cover.

I’m not sure if this is even something we should celebrate. Congratulations to Beyoncé for getting on the cover of the September issue of US Vogue and reportedly having “unprecedented access” to create whatever she wants apparently. But had it not been for this, when would Vogue have decided it was time for a Black photographer?

The United States of America and all of its racism elected a black president before Vogue allowed a black photographer for their cover. Click To Tweet

Come to find out this may be Anna Wintour’s last cover as CEO, according to Huffington Post. Beyoncé has hired Tyler Mitchell, a 23-year-old from Atlanta, GA. He will be the first Black photographer to shoot a cover in Vogue’s 126-year history. The photographer and filmmaker has worked with several known brands from Mercedes Benz to Marc Jacobs and Givenchy. This is an amazing opportunity for Mitchell and I’m confident that he will shake the f*ck out of the table in September.

To learn that he will be the first is a proud and sad moment for me. When first hearing the news and the details, I was ecstatic and wanted to know what Bey would be cooking up for the girls this fall, but then I sat in my bed and read some of the titles again and “first Black” and “126 years” kept coming up. I sent a quick text to Taryn Myers—an editor and writer for KingofReads.com—and told her how I felt. It didn’t come to her at first, but the wheels started to turn and she shared something important: “Vogue has been one of the primary messengers about what beauty, wealth, fashion and culture is right?” So to know that they’ve been pushing what is beauty for many years, even in this supposedly “progressive” state we’re in now, and we’re just now getting a Black photographer cover in 2018 speaks volumes.

“The First Black” I expect when we’re talking about government, since America has been ran and founded by white men. I shouldn’t be surprised since most of the publications are ran by those who are for Black and Brown people when capitalism calls them to it. These companies don’t truly care about us because and I don’t think they all of the sudden got it or it hit them. The beautiful Beverly Ann Johnson was the first Black woman to appear on the cover of Vogue in 1974 and even she probably wasn’t allowed to hire a Black photographer.

Nonetheless, Beyoncé and Tyler will create some Black magic for the September cover and Vogue will think that they have done something “progressive” to help them sleep in their white sheets at night not realizing that given tardiness is about as damaging as white sheets with two holes in it.

 

 

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