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I walk in every room as myself

Happy 52nd birthday

To the poet, musician and entrepreneur Shawn Carter, known professionally as Jay-Z!!

He is widely regarded as one of the most influential hip-hop artists in history and is also well known for being the former CEO of Def Jam Recordings, cultivating major industry artists such as Kanye West, Rihanna, and J. Cole.

Award Winner

His words here strike to the heart of why I stopped “code-switching”. I made a conscious decision to stop bringing my voice up an octave to remove the natural bass it has, no longer softening it and decided it was time to stop being meek in my physical posture in my interactions in predominantly white spaces, professional and otherwise.

His words here strike to the heart of why I stopped “code-switching”. I made a conscious decision to stop bringing my voice up an octave to remove the natural bass it has, no longer softening it and decided it was time to stop being meek in my physical posture in my interactions in predominantly white spaces, professional and otherwise.

And no, “code-switching” is NOT adjusting to your audience, as many have tried to convince me. I’ve spoken in front of audiences for many years. I know what adjusting to your audience is. This ain’t it!!

Code-switching, in this context, is a particularly insidious practice Black people use to “fit in.” We abandon speaking AAVE (if that is how we normally speak, with our natural intonation and flow). Instead we adopt what we perceive or have been told is a “professionally-acceptable” manner of speaking.

Unfailingly, it mimics Brad or Karen, will feel awkward and sound unnatural. But we do it until it becomes just as natural as our “normal” speech because someone along the way growing up, or maybe in college, or perhaps when we first became a working professional has told us or made us feel as though our regular voice is too “ghetto.”

Or maybe we just looked around the workplace at who was successful, getting the promotions and being invited to lunch. We add this up and determined that speaking how we do with our friends on the phone as soon as we leave work, or our spouse as soon as we get home,  or our parents on the weekend, doesn’t match everyone else in the office. And if we want to get ahead our best bet is to blend in with everyone else as much as possible.

I did it so much, so convincingly, and for so long that my partner would point out that I act differently around people.

My partner would ask who is showing up for the job interview or if I could put her on the phone to speak to a bill collector that they didn’t want to deal with.

Well, in recent years I decided no more! With everything else going on, I made a conscious decision to abandon the practice of code-switching in favor of being my authentic, whole, honest and natural self in every single human interaction I have. My emotional well-being improved, my energy level skyrocketed and my confidence is at an all-time high!

 

“Split” retired, and hasn’t attended any meetings in quite some time. So if you invite me to a Zoom call for a chat, just make sure you email that link to #youknowwhoIam!

Jay-Z and Dean Baquet, in Conversation

The rapper and music mogul discusses therapy, marriage and politics with The New York Times’s executive editor. Jay-Z Discusses Rap, Marriage and Being a Black Man in Trump’s America https://nyti.ms/2BxcSWo

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