OP ED: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ‘Code Switched’ and Nothing Wrong With It
In the history of U.S. politics, there has never been a politician, lawmaker like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Latina from the Bronx, college graduate who boasts of her working class ‘bartender’ roots and of course, proud of her Latinidad. In fact, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez is among a legion of women of color politicians that came into political power this past year. This new legion of women politicians are forgoing the Capital Hill ‘grey suits’ for authentic beautiful Latina, Native, Women of Color aesthetics and yes, that includes the ‘accents + speech’. So Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been under fire for having ‘code switched’ – big deal. Don’t we all do it?
With 2020 around the bend, Presidential candidate pool is looking mighty diverse and Trump could be on his way out. However, Trump isn’t stalling on feeding the media machine with his rhetoric and attacks, especially of women of color politicians.
Women of color politicians are becoming the ‘new normal’ and disrupting the ‘old boys network’ or the ‘old guard’ in the process. Disruption unfortunately comes with right-wing, political pundit attacks on these women, everything from wardrobes, to accents and ‘code switching’ – things non-people of color may not understand.
It’s evident that the United States is undergoing a new type of ‘culture war’.
Help Power Up Our Work. Sign up for our ‘BoldLatina News’ or Become A ‘BoldLatina Collective’ Member Invest In Our Latina Newsroom + Future
In this time of Trump influence, ring-wing media outlets are going after progressive women of color politicians like Rep. Ocasio-Cortez. Most recent Twitter wars have been between Trump and Somali-American Congresswoman Rep. Illhan Omar. Trump and the media machine pushed racial sentiment and misinformation against Rep. Omar who is Muslim – referencing her in connection with the 9/11 attacks. The reference to 9/11 was a Trumpism hurtful towards the Muslim community at-large, and put Rep. Omar’s life in danger with death threats.
There is no other candidate other than Rep. Ocasio-Cortez who has been consistently taking the hits and under fire for how she pronounces her name to ‘verbal Blackface’. Most recent in early April, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez spoke at Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network convention held in the Bronx, New York. The claim and complaint? She used ‘Black speech’, the ‘Southern Drawl’ and ‘ebonics’, the ‘verbal Blackface’ to pander to the mostly African-American attendees.
Rep. Ocasio-Cortez had this to say about ‘code switching’ not ‘verbal Blackface’-
Next time you‘re told straight hair is “unprofessional” & that speaking like your parents do is “uneducated,” then you can complain about code-switching.
Code switching is a tool communities learn when they’re told their voice, appearance, & mannerisms are “unprofessional.” https://t.co/tKPTneEncO
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) April 7, 2019
“Any kid who grew up in a distinct linguistic culture & had to learn to navigate class enviros at school/work knows what’s up,” Rep. Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. “My Spanish is the same way.”
With major movements and national conversations in the fight for racial equality and diversity/inclusion, ‘code switching’ is a fairly new concept brought to the mainstream. It may not be understood by non-people of color and people of color alike may not know they do this. ‘Code switching’ allows one to operate in worlds not made for us – the assimilation and/or acculturation one must do to ‘fit in’ or ‘be accepted’. The diversity and inclusion talk in technology has included keywords like ‘code switching’ plenty. What exactly is ‘code switching’?
Watch this explainer which focuses on former President Obama ‘code switching’ beautifully –
Huffpost – Between The Lines segment on ‘What Is Code Switching?’
For many non-Black Latinx who grew up in urban, diverse neighborhoods, it may be the claim of ‘verbal Blackface’ is preposterous. And it is, for many Latinos ‘code switch’ between English and Spanish. The American reality is that Black and Latino communities intersect, cross over and/or overlap. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez is a Latina from the Bronx, where she uses her Nuyorican English – a blend of ‘ebonics’, slang, and Spanish.