Come visit Interrupting Privilege at the Northwest African American Museum! Click here to learn more about the exhibit

Learning to Code-Switch

Listen to an instructor talk to his mentee in this brief, yet evocative conversation about the mentee’s transition from incarceration to academic life. The mentee speaks to the hyper-visibility of the Black man in America and his immense effort to “exceed the negative stereotypes of the Black man.”

I always feel like there’s eyes on me as a Black man in America

Such hyper-awareness of his hyper-visibility lead him to participate in “code-switching,” which a practice of awareness of two different worlds and learning to function in those worlds in specific ways. It isn’t as simple as changing the way one speaks when talking to their grandmother versus their best friend; it a survival tool, used to navigate spaces and communicate identity. This is especially prevalent when considering representation in higher education. For him, becoming a mentor for any other Black, male students is one of his many goals, especially because of his extensive experience navigating and understanding his identity.