#CoatSwitching Is Trending Nationally on Twitter, and This Is Why

One white writer learned the hard way why it’s important to research phrases you don’t know.

Peter Howell’s #CoatSwitching tweet Twitter

As a native and current resident of Los Angeles, I have no idea what #CoatSwitching is. I don’t even own a coat. I have a nice, warm hoodie and a cute sweater collection, and that’s about it.

I do, however, know what code-switching is. I am a code-switching master. I can go from that Valley Girl up tone to the gum-cracking hood girl in three seconds. Don’t try me; try Jesus.

The point is, #CoatSwitching and code-switching are two entirely different things, and one Toronto Star movie critic learned this the hard way Thursday when his article about Barry Jenkins and his new film Moonlight went live.

Peter Howell was probably very excited to show all his white friends how much he knows about #TheBlacks. Howell mentioned in his article that Jenkins used the term “coat-switching,” which he goes on to explain means “deliberately shifting cultural traits and vernacular to suit different circumstances.”

#CoatSwitching as it appeared in the original version of Howell's article
“Coat-switching” as it appeared in the original version of Howell’s article Screenshot

The article ran with the mistake in it, and Howell excitedly included the term in a tweet sharing the link to his piece. I cannot say how many eyes see Howell’s pieces before they go live, but I can say that it’s shameful that not one person caught the mistake.

It’s obvious that neither Howell nor his editors really know or understand what code-switching is, and they clearly didn’t care to find out. Not one person verified the term until after Twitter came for his head with the hilarious #CoatSwitching trending topic.

Howell has since deleted his Twitter account, and the article has been corrected to reflect the right phrase, but screenshots and this ab workout of a trending topic are forever.

For more of black Twitter, check out The Chatterati on The Root and follow The Chatterati on Twitter.

Monique Judge is a freelance journalist in Los Angeles. Follow her on Twitter.

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