A Black Perspective

OPINION

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Leda Edwards

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A Black Perspective

Credit: Schantelle Alonzo

Credit: Schantelle Alonzo

Credit: Schantelle Alonzo

Credit: Schantelle Alonzo

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As I stepped into the locker room to get dressed for gym class, I overheard a few girls talking about different hair products. 

Their conversation could be heard throughout the entire locker room. 

Slowly, more girls started to add to the conversation. I didn’t participate because I knew that every product they described would never work on my hair.

While they continued to talk about hairstyling methods like teasing and curling, I locked eyes with another black girl. We continued to get dressed and proceed to class. 

The stare that we shared was a connection that black people tend to have while around non-black people. The “look” says everything that needs to be said without saying it. 

In that particular moment, her eyes were saying, “Really?” And in response, my eyes were saying, “Girl, I already know.” 

We both felt uncomfortable when everyone started to talk about those particular hair products because we both knew that we couldn’t relate to anything they were saying.

Luckily enough for the both of us, we were able to form our own connection through eye contact. 

This is just a sample of what it’s like going to a school where only 7% of the population looks like you. It can feel like you’re alone or that you’ll never fit in because of certain cultural differences.

Inclusion isn’t the only thing that can be troublesome for me; the act of subconsciously trying to conform can also be a problem. 

Something that I have personally experienced is the phenomenon known as “code switching.”

Code switching is the practice of alternating between two or more languages or varieties of language in conversation and is usually performed in order to conform to societal norms in speech and grammar.   

Black people tend to code switch from African American Vernacular English (AAVE).

AAVE is a nonstandard variety of English spoken by a large percentage of black Americans; it has its own set of grammatical rules and is often misunderstood by mainstream society as a result of linguistic prejudice.

To combat this prejudice, most black people use standard English, or “white voice,” in professional settings or when they’re around a lot of non-black people. 

This is because when we do speak AAVE, people tend to say that it’s “ghetto.”

During my freshman year, I remember walking into one of my classes and observing that I was the only black person in my entire class. 

While everyone was happy, talkative and excited to start the school year, I was deep in my own thoughts. I sat there trying to figure out what I would say if someone were to try to have a conversation with me. 

Half of me wanted to act like my normal self and yet the other half cringed in fear of being judged by my white counterparts for not using standard English or being “too ghetto.” 

It was then that someone opened themselves up to me by offering a nice “Hello, my name is” and in response… I code switched. 

My “hello,” came out at a higher pitch than it usually would had I been talking to my black friends, and my words were stretched to make sure that every syllable was reached so that I could sound grammatically correct. 

I hated that I couldn’t just simply sound like me. 

A year prior, in eighth grade, I went through a very depressed phase. I yearned to be in a different environment surrounded by people who didn’t necessarily look like me. 

Growing up in an all black neighborhood, I always felt like I was missing out on the rest of the world. I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and befriend people of all backgrounds and Lane was my way out. 

It wasn’t until I got to Lane that I slowly realized how lonely and uncomfortable it would be to not be surrounded by people that I could connect with on a cultural level. 

That is not to say that I haven’t made any friends while being here, or that Lane is a bad school; Lane is a great school and I’m glad that I chose it over any other one. With that being said, Lane has also made me realize certain things about myself that I never had to realize before. 

One is that I truly am a minority.

So when I was taken out of an environment where I was surrounded by people of the same culture and placed in an environment where no one really looked like me, I felt disconnected and unlike myself. 

To put it simply, I had the culture shock of a lifetime. 

I’ve grown to learn that no matter how many friends I make, it is always difficult to fit in with people who weren’t raised like me or share the same cultural traditions.

Over time, I’ve slowly learned how to find a balance between the person I am when I am at home and the person I am at school. 

No matter how much I try to perfect my speech or behave a certain way to adhere to a particular environment, I am still Leda. There are certain things about me that will never change, no matter where I am or who I am around.   

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