It’s For You
When I walk into work, the professionalism is on full throttle. I even code-switch when I’m eating with my peers at lunch, because the way that I normally talk is really Black, peppered with expansive vocabulary of course. The majority of my White coworkers would literally not understand me if I spoke “normally”. Either that, or they’d spend an increased amount of time processing what I had to say.
A few days ago, I was working on some paperwork at my desk and my office phone rang. I looked at the caller ID and saw that the call was coming form my home state. I immediately wondered who could be calling me from home and I picked up the phone. It was one of my friends from high school that I hadn’t heard from in months. He had my business card and my old cell phone number had been changed. Shit.
You see, many college-educated Black people have issues with seeming “brand new” to their old friends from high school. Many people immediately assume that you think you’re better than them because you left home and got a degree. I’m not saying that my friends from back home are exactly like that, but I’ve had enough experiences to make me a bit more cautious when I speak to them. Even though I don’t let the code-switching linger when I talk to my friends from back home, they still think I’m pretty uppity. My real friends just throw a couple of boujee-jokes at me; my haters just judge.
So there I was, sitting at my desk with coworkers within ear shot as I began a conversation with one of my niggas. So I picked up the phone
That’s right, I just picked up the phone. I didn’t know what to say yet. My mind was still processing this moment in my interpersonal identity development. I was experiencing some serious cognitive dissonance as my friend apprehensively said, “Yo, what’s good Kai? It’s Larron.” Where do I go with this? Do I keep the code-switch on and say, “Good afternoon my friend,” or be my regular, Black-ass self with Katherine, Travis, Emily, Bob and so-on sitting just a few feet away? Then I looked at all of the people around me. All of the people who I knew on a surface level. People that I talked to about the weather, traffic, lunch and sports EVERY DAMN DAY. Then I thought about my dude on the phone, who I had known when my street wisdom had a lot more application. So I said fuck it.
Code-switch off. I continued the conversation casually, cutting it short since I had to get back to work. I told Larron that I’d catch up with him later, but the 2 minute conversation that we had was as Black as it could get. It was also one of the ultimate tests of identity formation. It was one of those moments where you have to definitively decide which identity is most central to you. Surprise…