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SU alumna speaks on the powers of code-switching

Updated: Jan 17, 2019

“Code-switching saved my life,” Dr. Monica Moody Moore ’92 said as she gave a lecture called “Code Switching: The Art of Cracking the Code with Authenticity” this past Thursday in the Wicomico Room. 

This lecture is part of a tradition hosted by Multicultural Student Services called the Enlightened Perspectives Lecture Series.

In linguistics, code-switching occurs when a speaker alternates between two or more languages, or language varieties, in the context of a single conversation.

Moore defines code-switching as altering dialect, word choice and communication style within an interaction. In addition to this description, Moore showed a video from HuffPost in which different people such as President Obama are given as examples of those who have successfully code-switched throughout their lives.

In her lecture, Moore described her experiences with learning what code-switching is and how she uses it to her advantage today.

Moore also described her experience at Salisbury University by sharing memories of time spent when she was an undergraduate with Mr. Vaughn White, the director of Multicultural Student Services.

To dive into her lecture, Moore introduced the connection between having an enlightened perspective and discovering the art of code-switching.

Moore mentioned that to be able to utilize and strategically code-switch, some people might need a moment within their life to have this epiphany. 

To tackle this fact and ultimately help prove her points within the lecture, Moore asked the audience, “What if it didn’t take an experience like someone being shot?” or “What if it didn’t take going to the hospital room to be enlightened?”

Through these questions, she was able to set a foundation to continue to discuss code-switching and how it can be made into a positive thing.

Moore also showed how failure to code-switch has resulted in death for some African-Americans. Although they were being their true authentic selves, people like Trayvon Martin and Sandra Bland could have used code-switching to save their lives. 

This is something that Dr. Moore related to and highlighted because not only did it save her life, but she has managed to use code-switching to be successful in different environments.

Moore continued to describe her life story and how she grew up in foster care. She also mentioned that what set her apart as a foster care kid was that she could be articulate and enunciate. In doing this, she also revealed how she managed to maintain being her authentic self as well as being connected to her community as a black woman.

Moore explained that this is how code-switching saved her life: “It enabled me to be in different spaces as the same person, but it also forced me to create new mannerisms and vocabulary to help me to code-switch effectively,” Moore said.

Junior Chantess Robinson, who is involved on campus in various organizations, mentioned that she learned a lot from the code-switching lecture.

“I learned more about the art of code-switching and why it’s necessary when changing environments, but I also learned how to change it when in my comfort zone as well,” Robinson said.

Robinson also mentioned how she now will be even more aware of when and how she code-switches.

“With my positions that I hold on campus, especially being a resident assistant, I feel that it’s more important to code-switch, whether I’m talking with my staff, my residents or even when I’m talking to higher-ups like campus police and other administrators,” Robinson said.

To conclude the event, Moore invited people to go further and learn more in order to be enlightened. Moore also mentioned that there is literature and dialogue about the art of code-switching.

Moore emphasized the need to really take advantage of the art, and she highlighted that it can really benefit you for the future and could save your life.



Staff writer

Featured photo: Dr. Monica Moody Moore ’92 gave a lecture titled “Code Switching: The Art of Cracking the Code with Authenticity" (Donovan Mack image).

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