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A quick convo with Karli: on code switching ... and more.

Two years ago last week, I interviewed Karli Butler outside Curt's Cafe, where she was the social services provider. Today she's a program officer at the Evanston Community Foundation. Karli graduated from DePaul University with a BA in Communications and an MA in Organizational and Multicultural Communication. She's a fourth-generation Evanstonian who's committed to promoting social and racial equity within education, public health, and human service sectors to improve the lives of people who live in, work in, and love Evanston. Her great-grandfather Samuel Butler came to Evanston from South Carolina. Her grandfather, James Butler, is 94 years old and is still and Evanston resident in the 2nd ward. At the time, I was helping Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre with research about Evanston's segregated communities and how the 5th ward became the historically Black ward in Evanston for its play, "A Home on the Lake." Karli told me that her dad remembers seeing houses being moved from 'white' parts of Evanston into the fifth ward when he was a child. We also talked about how she learned two different versions of history: one at school and one at home. "I think it's pretty common for Black kids to get two different stories," she said.

And we talked about code-switching. "Code switching is a skill," Karli said. "I mean, the way that ... I sit and talk at home with my best friends. It's going to be a little different in terms of slang and using African American Vernacular. I guess it's not as appropriate or accepted in certain spaces, but I'm even challenging myself to be more okay with being comfortable with who I am and how I talk in all different types of spaces." "When I've submitted resumes and they see 'Karli Butler,' when I've done interviews on the phone, and then showed up at the interview, they've said, 'Oh, I didn't know you were Black.'" "So, me speaking 'proper' English was associated with being white. You have to unfortunately use that in certain situations to get ahead or to be more palatable. I'm not saying that it's right or it's okay, I'm just saying that it's a skill that you learn so that you can move around in this really messed up society."


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