Code Switching

Recently I heard an unfamiliar phrase that caused me to do some research. It was “code-switching”. Maybe you have heard of it before, but in this day and age when people refer to homeless as “unhoused” and when teachers are now called “educators”, I wasn’t sure if it was something I already knew about or a catch phrase developed by someone trying to be politically correct.

Anyway, I researched it and discovered that code-switching is changing your speech, behavior and expression to optimize the way others see you, most especially while at work. The article I was reading was from the perspective of a younger person of color who worked diligently to change her manner of speaking (aka accent) and other things that make her most decidedly her, in order to obtain acceptance at her place of employment.

Coming from a female perspective, I can kind of see that happening since I know many females who work in male-dominated fields who have felt the need to modify their behavior to fit in with a bunch of men, but the lengths this young woman felt she had to go to in order to be accepted at her job astounded me. I failed to notice what the woman’s profession was, other than that she worked in a professional office, but it doesn’t matter what job she had. It’s horrible that she felt the need to change who she was to be accepted.

The more I thought about it though, I realized that while it isn’t a conscious thing; I do the same. At work my manner of speaking is more professional and I am more serious. Is that done to ensure I am more respected or accepted by doing so? I don’t think so, but honestly? I’m not sure. Growing up, I assumed that being more professional and serious at work was just the norm, but is it?

When you are with your family, the people who know you best and, hopefully, love you, you can show all your faults and foibles, so you do. When you are with your friends, you can show some of those faults, but even with friends, many of us have some behavior or deep-seated belief that others would find off-putting and we don’t show it to non-family because we want to be accepted. Family is stuck with you, while those at work or elsewhere in the outside world can walk away and that’s why we hide what some would perceive as the worst part of ourselves.

Then I realized that I have actually told people this…. people are different with their families than they are with friends or co-workers. In fact, I can’t tell you how many times I have said some version of that and I believe it.

Does this only happen to me? I doubt it and here’s the reason. In the last four-five years, a lot of what I call whack-a-doodle behavior is being exhibited by people all across this country. These are people who previously were seen by their co-workers as being stable, intelligent and well mannered. I am not pointing to anything in particular, but I think most people will pinpoint on their own what caused the family only side of these folks to be unleashed. People from every walk of life have started spouting damaging rhetoric that a mere few years ago would never have been uttered in public.

I don’t for a minute believe people become hateful overnight. Many, if not most of those who were suddenly unleashed on an unprepared public, may have harbored those hurtful behaviors and opinions for a very long time. Political violence, mass shootings, and even violence in the name of one’s religion tend to lead to copycats. One person doing a bad thing becomes a swarm of lemmings, all jumping off the cliff to unleash anarchy and mayhem.

While I wish everyone could be themselves at all times, I am not sure I am ready for a free for all of boorish or downright illegal behavior that, like those lemmings jumping off the cliff, would be near impossible to stop. So how do we put a stop to the downward spiral our society finds itself in? If only I knew.

But what I do know, is that it’s time for each of us, myself included, to work harder on learning to accept the differences between us. Whether it is an accent, the color of our skin, the religion we live by, or liking cats more than dogs, we have to learn to live in peace and harmony knowing that while we may be different, deep down we all want to be accepted for who we truly are.

The world will be a better place if we all just try, don’t you think?

Be well my friends…


Published by walkbal1372

Barbara A. Luker is the author of "Remembering You" (publication 2020) - a story of love, loss and finding the way back. She is a life-long resident of Saint Peter, Minnesota where she hones her writing craft working for the City of Saint Peter. Luker is a Certified Municipal Clerk, a devoted fan of the Minnesota Wild, and a supporter of numerous animal rescue organizations.

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