The Costs of Code-Switching
In 2012, a video of President Barack Obama entering the locker room of the U.S. men’s Olympic basketball team went viral. In the clip, viewers can see that there’s a clear difference between how Obama greets a white assistant coach and how he greets the black NBA player Kevin Durant. This moment inspired a sketch on Key & Peele in 2014 that played off the idea that Obama “switches” how he greets people, depending on whether they’re white or black.
This kind of behavioral adjustment is casually referred to as “code-switching,” which has long been a strategy for black people to successfully navigate interracial interactions and has large implications for their well-being, economic advancement, and even physical survival.