Friday, March 6, 2009

Lost In Translation - Yes, We Talk Differently

Ok, this blog is a public service and my private pleasure. As a public service, I know there are readers of various backgrounds reading my blog and I appreciate that - I've said it before: I'm not a "black" blogger, I'm a blogger who happens to be black; there's a difference. So I try to cover things that interest me as an individual and yes, sometimes race creeps up.

It is no different for our current President. No matter how he tries to just be America's President who happens to be black, we're reminded by some stuff he is still the "Black President." And as the first one in that position, he will have to bear the brunt of most concerns.

The latest concern is the "coded" messages the President seems to talk in when he's in the company of some "urban" folks like when he was at DC's famed "Ben's Chili Bowl" and he was leaving without taking his change and a worker alerted him to it and Obama replied "Nah, we straight." A reporter quoted this exchange later as "No, we're straight." LOL!

I don't have to tell you the color of that reporter who was lost in translation do I? But because of this major gaffe, as well as others on the campaign trail and now in Obama's first term some white folks are lamenting the fact that the President is speaking in codes. Seriously! I thought this was the same guy who wasn't "black enough?"

Everyone speak in codes and as a black person you have to be "bilingual" and even "tri-ligual" sometimes. Last week I had the heading of a blog post as "What had happened was . . ." Now after I posted the blog, I thought to myself if my audience of the lighter persuasion will get such heading. I knew the heading wasn't the proper grammar; it was straight up Ebonics but it was a tongue-in-cheek commentary of being missing in action. We say "what had happened was" if we're trying to get away from an uncomfortable situation we need to explain. It's like an inside joke . . . most times you get ribbed by loved ones for saying the phrase with an "uh-huh . . ."

Look, when the former President (isn't it great to say that) George W. Bush used all kinds of Evangelical coded messages like "wonder working power," to his base, why didn't the Media talk about Dubya speaking coded messages to his base? But now you have a "Brother" in the White House who's from a really diverse background they have a problem.

Checked out the inauguration? Did you see when some bands from Hawaii marched by and Obama gave them a hand gesture sign in salute which means hang loose? That is wisdom. I don't talk (I mean speak) the same way in every arena - that's being smart and it doesn't make me less authentic. I'm not going to be in my place of business and use all kinds of slangs when I need to be taken seriously. When I'm with family, it's a different side of me you'll see and so it is with friends. Like if I tell a friend not to fall for a guy's "okey-doke," she'll get I'm talking about his "game" or his wiles.

If on a basketball court, a person said a player dropped some "dimes" - I know that meant the player had some "assists" in his game. It doesn't mean the player dropped dimes as in "ten cents" on the floor. The same goes for other coded messages whether in the texting world or in hip-hop. I loved what Stephen Colbert said last week when he satirized talking about race and Eric Holder's "nation of cowards" speech. Colbert was honest in saying "I don't like rap because I can never figure out if "shorty" means a baby or the baby momma." That drew a laugh from the audience and this viewer at home.

So to my Caucasian friends and others who're not as in touch with the urban "speak." Don't think of it as folks or the President isolating you when you hear words you don't quite understand. Remember we had to "de-code" some of your innuedoes for years and just remained silent because who needs another race fight. If you don't understand something just ask and it might be time for you to get out more and break out of your comfort zone of just your suburbia friends. And if you don't want to, it's ok . . . we straight (and I mean we will still be cool regardless, we're fine . . .)

Coded Messages