George Paasewe Credit: Contributed

Code-switching is the practice of adjusting one’s style of speech, appearance, behavior, and expression to a particular context or situation. For people of color, code-switching can become a burden— but it does not have to be that way, according to researcher and author George Paasewe.

Paasewe’s book, How Black College Students Learn Code-Switching (2020), helps readers examine and evaluate the concept of code-switching, identify why people code-switch, compare the advantages and disadvantages of code-switching and develop strategies of how to advocate for social change, inclusion, and acceptance of cultural differences.

Within two years of launching How Black College Students Learn Code-Switching, 32 higher education institutions have adopted Paasewe’s book into their curriculum for instruction or programming. The University of Oregon, Michigan Technical University, and The University of Alabama at Birmingham are the latest higher education institutions that have adopted the book. Paasewe travels across the nation to speak to different colleges, universities, and corporations on the concept. His research, book, and speaking engagements are diversity, equity, and inclusion focused, offering institutions an interesting topic for students and staff to consider, engage, and take action with the tangible information provided.

“Code-switching is a tool anyone can use to break the communication barrier and make new connections with people outside of their race, ethnicity, and culture,” says Paasewe. “Language differences between cultures can serve as a roadblock. In these instances, code-switching has value because it allows one to participate in the larger, more diverse community.”

As a professor of sociology at a midwestern technical college that is a predominantly White institution (PWI), Paasewe recognizes that students of color are experiencing some challenges in navigating White spaces due to lack of support, microaggressions, and cases of racism.

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