We don’t code switch enough. Not every Black person speaks Ebonics, but those of us who are fluent in that tongue should know when to turn it on and when to shut it down. I want to pull the lever that opens up the floor and swallows me up when I hear a brother or sister all loud and proud in a corporate setting talking about some “ain’t got no’s” or “I be doing’s.” I’m as improper as they come—English major and all—but my mama taught me early to talk one way around us and another around them.
We beat our kids mercilessly in public. Let it be known that I believe in corporal punishment. My daughter has sprouted up about an inch and a half taller than me now but that chick knows if and when the situation ever calls for it, I’ll climb a step ladder and Macho Man Randy Savage her tail to get her behavior in check. However, however, that type of punishment is reserved for home. Outside, she gets The Look, maybe a scold, but never the full-out hand combat some of our parents are laying on their children in public.
We’re mesmerized by white folks. They ooh and ahh over their hair. They hang on their words. They’re hot on their heels. They throw around terms like “ghetto” in mixed company and crack jokes at our people’s expense. They make me want to tap them on the shoulder and remind them that they are in fact Black, despite their best efforts to be the opposite. They don’t have enough sense to be humiliated by their own shucking and jiving, so I am on their behalf.
We mispronounce all kinds of words. Where oh where do reporters come up with some of the folks they find to interview? Last night on TV, a woman in a headscarf with about three good teeth and maybe four or five bad ones covered up her exposed collar bone after the journalist asked her about the cold snap we’re experiencing here on the east coast. As she was bundling up for effect, the local celebrity shook her head, looked straight into the camera, leaned into the mic and announced that she hoped she didn’t catch ammonia. Now, I’m not a snob, but dammit. Get it together.
Get it off your chest: what do some Black folks do to embarrass you?