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The following Featured Post comes from Relationship Group 3, Thread 9.

1. Have you ever had to choose?
Wed, Sep 15, 1999 - 3:16 AM/EST

The pressure on Cicily to "choose" brought back a lot of unpleasant college memories for me. Though I am not bi-racial, I experienced a great deal of pressure to choose. When I went to UCLA in the middle and late eighties, my experience was that you had to choose. If you were going to hang with the black "in" crowd, you just couldn't really have white friends.

There were people who just stopped talking to me (cold turkey) when I started spending a lot of time with a really funny and smart guy who just happened to be white. And when I started dating the white man who would later become my husband, it was like I became invisible. It wasn't like very many people were mean to me, it was more like I had ceased to exist. I'm having trouble articulating exactly what it was like.

Has anyone else ever had a similar experience?

3. Have you ever had to choose?
Wed, Sep 15, 1999 - 1:13 PM/EST

Reading Jacqueline's post brought up some memories for me. I'm a white female that went to a high school that was 70% black, where I actually started in 7th grade. So from age 11 on, I was "socialized" in a primarily black environment. It shaped the friends I made, the music I listened to, the clothes I wore, the way I talked, everything.

When I went to college it was a mostly white school in the middle of a cornfield. The first few weeks I easily made friends with the people on my co-ed floor of the dorm, most of whom where white. But as the time wore on, I gravitated towards the black population at the school. The white frat parties where everyone sat around and drank and puked off balconies were not my scene. (Okay, I am generalizing a bit.) The black greek parties with pumping house music and dancing for hours were.

In the meantime, the white "friends" in my dorm were getting more comfortable and starting to show their true colors. Most were from white suburbs or rural towns and their sheltered-ness, ignorance and prejudice started coming out.

Soon it became obvious that I had a lot of black friends and some of the white people on my floor stopped speaking to me. Then I started getting copies of Ebony, Essence and Jet that someone on my floor subscribed me too. I'd also get crank phonecalls where an obviously white guy would try to speak, I don't know... what he probably considered "jive talkin'" and ask me if I remembered him. "Ya know, I's Leroy from Kentucky Fried Chicken."

Oh god, it was just pathetic... so I guess I had to "choose." I chose not to associate with the a**holes that suddenly developed a problem with me because I had black friends. I maintained a solid core of like-minded black and white friends and tried to steer clear of the idiots.

4. There is no choice
Wed, Sep 15, 1999 - 2:11 PM/EST

Wow. I thought it was just me. I've found that people always want to put you into a category. If you are really black then you can only like and hang out with black people. And if you are really white, then the same. I identify with all of your stories as I had the same experience in high school, undergrad and grad school. Unfortunately because I was young and lonely, I tried to keep my mouth shut long enough to make friends. But it would all go to Hell in a handbasket the minute we would begin to talk.

These people would always want to blame white people and the "system" for our "situation". They would go on and on about how this group was so segregated or that group. And I guess that they did not want to hear that half of the reason for the separation between blacks and whites (not to exclude other groups) is that blacks and whites self-segregate. And people who self-segregate cannot then talk about how they are shut out of things. And the demand to choose is just another example of this.

Why should one have to choose between interacting with your own cultural group and the majority cultural group. Isn't the ability to go between both worlds and be comfortable an asset? I think that people who try and force people to choose see the ability to be comfortable with everyone as a betrayal. In fact, if they were to articulate this feeling it would probably come out as "How dare you be comfortable with them"?!!!

8. A little slack for the self segregators please
Wed, Sep 15, 1999 - 5:25 PM/EST

Even though I introduced this topic through a painful experience of my own, I do understand why a lot of people in non-majority cultures choose to self segregate. It's very discomforting to be misunderstood, treated with suspicion, derision or even just curiosity. The ability to tolerate such varies greatly from individual to individual (and for me, it can vary day to day). The truth is that it is easier to be around people who share a similar cultural background with you. There are fewer misunderstandings, more things that are just understood.

The only thing that I have found is that ethnic or cultural background is not always a strong enough tie between people who are otherwise strangers. There are just so many other variables. I've also found a willingness to search for other areas of common ground can offer some pleasant surprises. For instance, I recently became friends with a Ukrainian woman who is nine years my junior. On the surface, you would never expect a black woman born in Compton to have much in common with a white woman born in Siberia, but we have the exact same sense of humor. I find her company delightful.

I know that I am "preaching to the choir" but i just want us to be a bit more compassionate as we analyze these complex and very emotional issues.

10. Have you ever had to choose?
Thu, Sep 16, 1999 - 1:44 AM/EST

Being black I have to choose all the time. In high school I chose between hangin out with my dawgs or being in the band. In college I had to choose between Engineering students and my boys. On the job I have to choose the way I talked around white people and black people. If I said "Yo whaz up" to white people at work than itís considered not appropriate in corporate America and affects my pay check, however when it's just two blacks in the hall way we will say "Yo whaz up" just to remind each other that we're still black and haven't sold out. Is it right? no I don't think so but if you ask most blacks in corporate America they do the same thing if they want to work in America and still hold on to some of their black heritage. So what you have is a person that has choose in order to be successful in both cultures.

11. SmoothTap
Thu, Sep 16, 1999 - 2:29 AM/EST

But what about those of us who prefer not to code-switch? What about those of us who are just as comfortable saying "Hi SmoothTap. How's it going today"?

What about those of us who are uncomfortable with speaking grammatically incorrect English and the thought that some outward action is necessary to indicate to others that we have not "sold out"? Can I not hold onto my heritage (all of it) without trotting out this behavior? And if I refuse to do these things, are you saying that I am not properly embracing my black culture? Why does it always seem as if there is some test that you have to pass to be seen as really black.

Isn't the test really how much I do for my community? Or how closely I hug my family to me? Isn't it enough that I donate a portion of my salary and a good deal of my time to charities that address the concerns of those who have not had many opportunites (including of course black people)? Isn't it enough that the people that I love most in the world are black (My dad, mom, sister, brother, and best friend)? Why does it always come down to proving something. And one more thing, I don't need to do anything to "remind [myself] that [I] am still black". I have the happy reminder every day in the mirror.

Smoothtap, excuse me for taking part of your post out of context. But this was something that I had to get off my chest.

12. Robbie...
Thu, Sep 16, 1999 - 10:09 AM/EST

I know that is between you two guys, but I would have to agree with you Robbie. Being part of the "black community" has nothing to do with speaking ebonics with the homies. It is where your heart is as well as your head.

True enough, we all have to interact differently in different settins, but you don't shouldn't have to carry-on just to remind yourself or anybody else you are still black. All I have to do is just grab a mirror. Enough about that.

13. to Robbie
Thu, Sep 16, 1999 - 10:32 AM/EST

I grew up in the hood and yes these people speak in slang or what you call bad English but are they wrong to use slang? These people are very good people and they have made the choice for whatever the reason to stay where they are and live life their way. I on the other hand decided that I wanted leave and see the world but I still cherish my original roots. Unfortunately I know that if I speak in slang at the office I would be viewed like you view it, in a negative manor and I would be stereotyped.

I wish it werenít true by thatís reality and it affects my success in the workforce. If I give up slang altogether then it affects my relationship with my family and friends in the hood. They would no longer feel that I could relate with them. It is right for me to go back home and try to tell these people how to talk act and live just because I chose to leave? When I lived in Germany for 3 years I had to learn the language and accept the culture so I could socialize with Europeans. What I am really trying to say is that we all have choices and along with those choices come good and bad. So as we make these choices lets make sure we can live with them.

15. another random thought
Thu, Sep 16, 1999 - 1:38 PM/EST

Wait this is not an argument. Simply my point of view.

And SmoothTap, it was never my intention to say that people who speak in slang should be dissuaded from doing so. I simply want to present the argument that if you choose to do so, don't look down on me because I choose not to. I understand the pressures that you talked about in trying to show that you are still black. I have had this issue with my own family. I don't know how many times I heard the phrase "just like a white girl". The funny thing is that this phrase was half intended to be a compliment. Because let's all be honest---Ethnic minorities, in general (there I go again) value light more than they value dark. Go to AstroIndia and look at the marriage classifieds. Notice that these parents take pains to note whether their daughter or son is "fair".

I guess my point is that refusing to code-switch should not adversely affect your relationships. You just have to let the people that you love know that being black has nothing to do with how you speak, what you wear, etc. And disallow them from saying these ignorant things.

And realize that if someone whom you don't know very well does not code-switch, they are NO LESS BLACK THAN YOU!!!!

19. robbie
Thu, Sep 16, 1999 - 3:31 PM/EST

I agree, no one should look down on anyone based on the way they walk or talk. I am very glad that you are being frank and I am not taking it as an argument. What you are saying is the way things should be but they are not. We still live in a world where people judge you based on your differences and not on your similarities. I try to judge others on the way they treat me and not their talk or walk. I donít believe everyone has to codeĖswitch. Itís a choice you make depending on your comfort level.

I would like to ask you if you think we all code-switch to some degree in life. I mean do you talk the same way to your good friends as you do your parents or boss?

Iím not trying to disagree with you I am just trying to understand your point of view, which I hold as valid.

23. Code-switching. . . we probably all do it. . . but not in the same way [1]
Thu, Sep 16, 1999 - 4:28 PM/EST

Re SmoothTap's question

In answer to your question, no, I do not speak the same way to everyone. I don't work so I don't have a boss, but I understand what you are saying. It's funny that you should ask me this. I was contemplating just this earlier today. I concluded that the way that I speak to my parents is different than how I speak to my parents. But the difference is not grammatical. The difference is that I filter for my parents.

My dad would have a small conniption if I cursed around him or my mom---As well he should. But regardless of what I choose to call it, the crux of the matter is that yes, I do agree that a person chooses the most appropriate manner in which to communicate with each individual. My problem is that again, I am not comfortable with slang and such. My refusal to code-switch extends to the way that I treat everyone. I feel that everyone is equal. I am no more solicitous of my professors than I am of my fellow students. I treat everyone in the same deferential manner. And I expect the same. The only exceptions, of course being my parents, grandmother and aunts and uncles, etc. I, of course, let them run all over me. : )

And another thing, what do you mean when you say that code-switching is the result of a certain "comfort level"? I am assuming that you mean that when a black person is comfortable with his or her "blackness" that code-switching can occur. Based on my assumption, I can say that I take offense because again, you are making a judgment based on a refusal to speak grammatically incorrect English. And you know what? I am extremely comfortable with myself, with my "blackness". I am also very comfortable with everyone else.

24. [2]
Thu, Sep 16, 1999 - 4:29 PM/EST

Code-switching makes me uncomfortable because I feel that it otherwise contributes to the assumption that blacks don't naturally speak grammatically correct English. And if you do, then "you talk white". Whites do not have a monopoly on grammatically correct English. And I am insulted when people tell me things like, "Oh, you speak so well." I have to look at them and ask, "How would you expect me to speak?"

I guess all of this bothers me because in the past six years I have worked with many small children from low SES areas (many of whom happen to be black) and they (regardless of how young they are) would always tell me that I "talk white". As far I am concerned, this sets up another generation that feels that it is "selling out" its blackness by speaking standard English.

Wow, SmoothTap, I bet you are saying "Geez, I asked one little question!" Sorry. But I find this discussion invigorating as I am constantly correcting people when they use the phrase "talk white [or black]" So this is always a big issue for me. Especially because I happen to think that the reinforcement of these stupid stereotypes damages us all. And contribute to people world-wide thinking that all AA use phrases like "you go girl". We don't all speak that way. But we are all Black. And should be accepted as such.

30. robbie
Thu, Sep 16, 1999 - 5:41 PM/EST

I glad we are discussing this subject. It is really good to here others views. I use slang and I still get people saying I talk white. But I also get white people telling me in the work force "you are an exception because you talk just like us". Which is just as bad because I am not and exception to the rule, just one of the many that exist. I never thought slang was only a black thing. If you watch MTV you can see that a lot of young white adults use slang. Maybe by the time they become working adultís things may be different.

33. talking white ...
Thu, Sep 16, 1999 - 8:20 PM/EST

I, too, am often told that I speak "white English," whatever *that* is. More bizarrely, however, I have even been told that I eat "white" food! I brought some vegetarian casserole in to class one night and one of my students asked what it was. When I told her, she shook her head, "You even eat like a white person," she said. How crazy is this?

34. Is there a list of which I am unaware?
Thu, Sep 16, 1999 - 8:29 PM/EST

Do you guys (blacks, whites, men and women) sometimes get the feeling that there was a document circulated that detailed how we are all supposed to act based on skin color. . . Except you missed school that day? Because, I have a list too long to write here of things that I do and say that make me "white". . . None of which help me when I am driving on the NJ Turnpike. : )

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