The Subtle Act of the “Code Switch”
Joel Leon.
50045

I’m white. I was born white. I grew up in a white middle class world, went to a US university and graduate school. Started several successful businesses. When I walk into a room I’m a successful white man. I will always be a white man. When I was in college I dated a black girl; lasted about a month. Code switching was too hard and we weren’t good at it. When we went to a black party I was the white guy. And white guys were the privileged power class. We were all slightly uncomfortable with me being there. When we went to a white party she was the black curiosity viewed with sidelong glances. And black girls were most definitely not the privileged power class. We were all slightly uncomfortable with her being there. Blacks need to show they’re not intimidated by a white man; whites need to show they’re not racists. I’ve lived in five countries on four continents. When I walk into a room I’m a successful white man. But I code switch when I’m in China or Jordan or Malaysia or France. The switch may be nuanced and subtle, but always there, just as in speaking a different language. There’s nothing wrong with seeing a person as a black, or an Asian, or a white, or a Hispanic — in fact, it’s a good thing. When I run my businesses I need to have blacks and whites and Asian and Hispanics and men and women and cis and trans and queers because — not despite that — we think differently. I am a white man and, Joel, you are a black man. We are all human, each with our frailties, fears, biases, baggage, hopes, dreams, ambitions, joys, insecurities, strengths and loves. And all we really want is to be accepted because of who were are. Beautiful essay, Joel. Thank you.

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