What is code switching? And how it is done

By: Kristopher Colley


Black culture is an alluring mix of counter and popular cultures. Since the dawn of jazz and rock n’ roll, black culture has influenced and assimilated into the greater American pop culture. Often unseen and unrecognized, black culture has been woven into the modern American society’s dialect and utterance.

The belief and establishment in multiple cultures avows that differences and similarities will habitually compare and contrast across culture. In today’s globally connected world one must be knowledgeable about maneuvering through varying cultures.

Culture is described in the Webster dictionary as, the beliefs, customs, arts, etc. of a particular society, group, place, or time. Cultures are individualistic. College culture is different from high school culture, sports culture is different from Wall Street culture, Jewish culture is different than Hindu culture, New York culture is different than San Francisco culture, and surprise racial cultures differ from race to race. The ability to navigate through different cultures with understanding of each has modernly become known as code-switching.

Most people code-switch daily without realizing what they just did. For example, you are hanging out with your friends and you mother walks in wants to speak with you. Odds are the way you speak to your mother will be vastly different from how you were just speaking to your friends. Occurrences such as this happen everyday without notice. A conversation with co-workers will drastically change tones when the boss is in the vicinity. And often black friends will have a change in resonance once they’re in the company of their white friends.

#AskRachel, crossing between cultures can be trying and tiresome. Successful people know that being themselves, is unique enough. Code-switching is a conscious decision, done in large part to fit in. Cognitively attempting to assimilate with multiple styles of culture can have a dividing effect.

Code-switching, due to its title and perpetuation, has been deemed adversant. The great Civil Rights activist W.E.B. DuBois, exclaimed today’s modern code-switching in the early 20th century as having a “double conscious”. DuBois stated that “the sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his twoness – an American, and a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body.” This separation in thinking allows code-switching to still be relevant.

Successful people in 2015 should have the navigation across cultures down to a pseudoscience. Successful people don’t confuse code-switching with a complete overhaul of personality or identity. What defines you should always remain consistent. Your ethical values must continue to drive you. Successful people understand who they are, respect their culture and the cultures of others, and persist everyday to be better.

Successful people build character and work tirelessly to better themselves every single day. The successful people of 2015 embody a cosmopolitanism ideology and know that the only person that they are better than is the person they were yesterday.

Kris Colley

Contributing, M.O.U.S.E. Essayist



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