Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Incident in "The Go"

This weekend the fellas and I took a mini-excursion to Chicago to see Nicolay (greatest hip hop producer you've never heard of). The show was bananas but honestly, I had a pretty interesting time just riding the Metra through the city. The intersection between class and race is so wide open; at one point, I sat between a lawyer and a cat whom I presumed to be a vagrant. The whole trip made me begin to reconsider the way that melting-pot situations work to either foster or hinder "diversity".

In any event, Monday morning on the way home I acknowledged this brother who was dispensing tickets with a phrase like, "what's good cuz". Now apparently, the lady sitting in the row in front of me was eavesdropping on a prior conversation I was having with my friend across the aisle-way and she says to me, "do you mind if I ask you something?" (at this point I assume it's going to be some offensive, off-the-wall inquiry). So she begins to ask me why I change the way that I speak depending on who I'm talking to. I didn't want to get into a debate with a school teacher on the train so I reply, "it's just a habit". Next she starts telling me that she adopted a black child and works tirelessly to see that he always uses flawless diction so that he'll have an advantage over his classmates (and people like me) blah blah blah. And finally she ends by saying "I think it's important that you never try to be something you're not"... this is where she crossed the line.

I had intended to say something like, "it's called code switching, you should try it"; but all of a sudden I began to feel bad for this little boy and all the beautiful, cultural experiences that he'll likely miss out on, so I gave this strange woman a mouth-full in his honor--

Look lady, this is the problem: Black men and women who define themselves by the structure of their gated communities and country club status have become a cheap sponge for dominant white culture. This is not to say that every middle to upper class African American that has "made it," did so by acquiescing or selling out, however, it's often the case that as a rite of passage into the suburbs a substantial number of blacks abandon certain ethnic idiosyncrasies in order to fit a more socially accepted, eurocentric mold. I "change the way I talk" because I'd like to retain as much of my regional identity as I can. I change the way that I talk because I don't intend to fit any mold; and to tell you the truth, my slang is the reason why you actually paid for your train ticket and I'm riding for free.

If I was you, I'd think about letting your son hang out around a local community center or making him read DuBois early in life. Matter of fact, you should buy him some hip hop records-- I hear it helps with understanding poetry and meter.

Her response: Who's DuBois? (Damn. And I'm supposed to be the uneducated one.)

Just keeping it real for a minute here, I can't see anyone wanting to sound like Bryant Gumbel 24 hours a day.

3 comments:

Marcus said...

P.S. The other day one of my boys told me he's been laying it down with my playlist in the background so you'll notice I changed it up for some variation.

I do what I can do, when I can do it. (Bigups to Ray Massey haha)

Renee said...

lol ok that comment is a bit on the odd side!!!! but way to slap that woman in the face! you should have told her it with a british accent or something just to show her your true range lol

Irene said...

So, wait... What did the lady say that was wrong? That you should be yourself? Not sure I followed.