African American

5:59pm

Tue January 27, 2015
Politics

The problem with "sounding white"

Alyssa Kapnik Portraiture

 


We are always adjusting the way we sound. It especially depends on the social situation we are in. Linguists call it "code switching," a term originally used for people who would switch between two different languages like Spanish and English. But the term has evolved to embrace the tone, accents, and inflections that we use when talking to people. Many of us do it.

Growing up, I heard plenty of jokes about the way I spoke. But I couldn't help the way I sounded. It’s a default voice, just how I speak. You see where I grew up, in Las Vegas, there were two types of black kids in school: those who hung out only with other black kids and those who bounced back and forth between black and non-black friends. I was in the second group. With all of that switching back and forth, my voice switched too. And it still does. For example, when I’m on the phone with my sister, the “sistah” comes out. It's not something I’m always conscious of. Sometimes it just sort of happens.

Now as an adult I have fun with it, but as a kid it wasn’t always this way. Finding my voice was just painful. At school, being told I “sounded white” meant only one thing. I wouldn’t be eating my corndog and tater tots at the black kids’ lunch table.

But that was then. Nowadays, in some schools, corn dogs and tater tots have been replaced with tofu dogs and green salad. It got me wondering if the conversation among teens may have changed too. So, I went to a place where I thought I might find some black teens who’ve been accused of “talking white”: the skate park.

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4:51pm

Tue January 27, 2015
Arts & Culture

The gains and losses of racial "code switching"

Stanford Professor Allyson Hobbs' latest book, 'A Chosen Exile.'

 


On today’s episode of “Crosscurrents,” we are talking about identity. We have heard how people, whether intentionally or not, can “pass” as another race, just by the sound of their voice. Passing can also be a full-time, physical endeavor. The United States has a long history of African Americans who chose to live as white in their daily lives. 

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5:29pm

Thu December 18, 2014
Health, Science, Environment

Black folks in nature

Rue Mapp, founder of Outdoor Afro, leads a group on a white water adventure
Outdoor Afro

 

One of the Bay Area’s main attractions is its proximity to nature. Only 45 minutes separate Bay Area residents from arriving at the ocean, the mountains, or a hiking trail. But not everybody experiences the Bay Area’s natural beauty. A 2012 study by the Outdoor Foundation found that only 11% of outdoor recreation participants are black. And National Parks Service estimates that black Americans comprise only  7% of its annual visitors.

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5:28pm

Thu December 18, 2014
Arts & Culture

A park ranger and Buffalo Soldier

Yosemite National Park ranger Shelton Johnson in uniform as a "Buffalo Soldier"

The Buffalo Soldiers were some of our country’s first park rangers. They proudly wore their uniforms with wide brimmed ranger hats and navy blue jackets adorned with gold stripes.  Just after the Civil War, the US government formed these regiments of black soldiers to patrol and protect nationally designated park land, claimed after the Indian Wars. And their journey started right here in the Bay Area where the Buffalo Soldiers gathered in San Francisco’s Presidio before heading into the mountains of Yosemite and beyond.

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7:00pm

Wed April 23, 2014
Arts & Culture

Not a Genuine Black Man: Interview with Brian Copeland

PHOTO BY CARLOS AVILA / SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE / SFGATE.COM

Brian Copeland has a weekly  radio show on KGO. Today he is a radio personality, actor, comedian, writer, and performer, but like many of us, he says he got to where he is today thanks to a series of coincidences.

Copeland tells the story of his life in an acclaimed show called “Not a Genuine Black Man.”

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