Recently, one of my classes got to talking about race and discourse (what language has to do with power), and one student raised a hand and said he had an example that would help. Then he described how, when he was a boy, he couldn’t figure out what a certain newscaster’s name was. The student complained that because the newscaster pronounced his name with a “Mexican” accent, he couldn’t understand it. He gave this as an example of “code-switching,” as an example of how this “code-switch” took away the newscaster’s power. (I will get to code-switching, a term that I think was confused in this class.) The student claimed that the newscaster’s pronunciation of his name stopped him from reaching his audience. Then the student said what has been bothering me relentlessly since then, that this—the newscaster’s name as he himself owned it—”wasn’t his real name.”
I wrote about racism in higher ed and about owning your privilege for Salon. It’s been a rough fall.