My mother was always a stickler for proper grammar when I was growing up. She would correct me to “yes” when I said “yeah” or “do not” when I said “don’t.” These habits followed me to where I am today, and according to family and fellow peers, they are detectable in my speech.
Throughout my life, I have been constantly told that I speak proper, or like a white person. I am African American, and my ethnicity has always been questioned because of the way I speak. I have always been seen by nmy peers and even family members as mixed or an “Oreo.” All of my life I have seen this as a deficit because of the taunting I received.
As I continued to grow, I thought that I should change the way I spoke due to comments from other people. I decided that if I spoke “slang” more often I could change the way I sounded. I tried to engage in conversation with peers in slang, but they told me that I did not sound right saying it. For example, when agreeing with someone I would say “kill moe,” and everyone would stare in silence. I thought that the way I spoke was a curse that my mother had plagued me with. I wanted to change the way I spoke badly so I could fit in with other people.
I constantly felt as if I was losing parts of myself, and I was not the only person who saw the metamorphosis I was going through. I received remarks from adults and peers regarding how I changed. I knew it was wrong, but I desperately wanted to fit in and not feel like the black sheep of the herd. I thought that changing my speech would make me feel like I was accepted, but I only felt more like an outcast.
It took me awhile and a lot of soul searching to finally find out who I was and what I wanted. I discovered that the way I speak is part of me, and that I should embrace it instead of shunning it away.
Originally published in Having To Tell Your Mother Is The Hardest Part.