“As A Black Woman, I Code-Switch To Survive”

By Paula Akpan | Refinery29

Living as a black person in the UK, changing the way you interact with different audiences can become a lifelong practice.

Growing up, I noticed the way my dad’s strong Nigerian accent would soften and become more anglicised when he spoke to his colleagues over the phone. I was always aware of the way I addressed my teachers at my predominately white grammar school, often feeling like I didn’t want to give anyone a reason to question my place there. My parents had instilled in me the idea that because I was a black girl, I would have to work twice as hard as everyone else and, at the age of 11, I was already aware that I was under more scrutiny from teachers. I wanted to distance myself from the stereotype of being a loud, disruptive truant; a stereotype I knew would be more easily pinned on me than on a white student. And so, through keeping quiet in lessons save for answering questions, avoiding slang that could be frowned upon, and modifying my accent, I began to code-switch.

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