Blowing My Cover

People code switch to different degrees; some more than others. I code switch a lot. Before my current vocation; I had very little experience in working with White people. Now it’s like living two different lives (shout out to dual consciousness). But code switching aside, I think I may have an aggression problem. Which means that I have to switch even more behaviors.

One thing I have switch up is how seriously I take physical threats. You know the people who threaten your physical well-being just for looking at them wrong? I think one of my grandparents was one of those people. So when Tony asked me how funny it would be if we all got into a brawl in the office; all I wanted to say was, “how much laughing do you plan on doing if I’m whoopin yo ass?”. But instead I said, “hilarious”.

It’s relatively easy to act and adjust behavior in an office. It’s a controlled environment. The problems arise when coworkers venture out of the office together. That’s when the switching goes into a dizzying frenzy. Like when the homeless guy tested me.


I'mma fuck yo day up

My coworkers and I were walking to the deli, and a panhandler came up to us asking for change. We all politely denied his request. Instead of walking away, this guy yells, “c’mon dawg!”. And he looks me in the face. No one else. Just the one Black guy in the group referred to as “dawg”. I hate panhandlers, but all I said was “I don’t have it”. The conversation continued like so:

Bum: Come on brotha, hold me down. Stop fronting man.

Me: Fronting? I told you I ain’t got it son.

Bum: Let me holla at some change when you come out the deli

At this point, I’ve lost all of the act. It’s about to be a straight up nigga moment. In my shit-is-about-to-go-down voice I said, “Son, fall back”, as I clapped my hands on every consonant… he walked away. With all that clapping, he knew he ain’t want it.

To some of you, that action may not seem like too much. All I said was “fall back”. But I kid you not, by the next day, the rumor was that I hated homeless people.

The homeless guy blew my cover, and now everyone just thinks I’m a cold hearted asshole.

6 Responses to “Blowing My Cover”
  1. Blanonymous says:

    Everyone has to code switch in life. Not just us.
    Who wouldn’t rather wear pajamas to work, put their feet up on the desk, use slang and play video games or surf the net all day in the office? (or not have to go to work at all)
    And then of course their’s the code switching women have to do in order to keep a job.

    • O.K. Kai says:

      Hence the reference to there being a preexisting aggression issue. The presented scenario is not solely indicative of code-switching (used in its pyscho-social sense of course).

      That being said, the difference between general work behavior and code-switching, is that code-switching deals directly with the perspective of the minority. The racial experience is that of many historical, anthropological, psychological and sociological factors. Factors that, in turn, effect the present culture and communication style of many minorities; especially for Black people. The normative behavior of the minority cannot still be considered normative to the majority. Especially when the minority is only 12% of the population. That is where code-switching comes into play. Being Black isn’t synonymous with being unprofessional. There is some well-respected research ( that suggest legitimate cultural characteristics that link to the African-American experience, including the way that we communicate (the chronbach’s alpha of that scale in the link is strong too).

      As for the slang. White people use slang in professional settings all the time. But since they are part of the majority, it is not considered inappropriate. Here’s a few slang terms I’ve heard at work:

      “this is a seat of pants situation”. “we’re doing horse correcting”. “Click on the diddy in the corner”. “This is the real McCoy”.

      That’s slang if I’ve ever heard of it, but it’s White. So there’s no need to code-switch.

  2. O.K. Kai says:

    I forgot what the first one meant. I think “horse correcting” has something to do with checking your progress or proceeding with caution. I think “diddy” means “thing”.

  3. Dez says:

    Ironically, “the real McCoy” is based on a black man, Elijah McCoy. He invented the steam engine lubricator. I have literally been waiting to use that tidbit since I did a report on him in the 5th grade. Thank you 40 Acres.

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