A statement you will probably hear quite a lot is, “there is a difference between African born in Africa and African born in America”. Truly, there is but that is not quite what I want to talk about; I want to talk about the African from Africa and the African who immigrated to America. I would say that these are two different identities that can either clash or blend well together. More often than not, they would clash and that’s what a lot of immigrant African children have to deal with. The identity of where you are coming from and the identity of where you are now. Which do you associate with, the “ghost” of the past or the aliveness of the present?
This issue of clash in identities is unfortunately not spoken about a lot but it is something we experience and go through on a daily basis. I remember when I first came to America, there was unfamiliarity in the American culture, and that fear in new and unfamiliar beginnings. There was that need to stick to what you know, where you are from, how you were brought up. While that isn’t a bad thing, what about evolution and growth, I thought. I surely can’t remain stagnant in my ways or else how would growth come? Then, I moved into the stage where there was a confusion between the burning need to hold onto my Africanness so as to avoid claims of being whitewashed and that strong desire to assimilate and be like my other American classmates. Now, I am at a stage where I am indeed recognizing this clash in identities.
I know you might be thinking, why not be both? Why must there be a clash? I truly don’t know, there just is. I wasn’t born in the American culture, so I am not used to it, therefore, I have to learn and get used to it but how do I do that when I am all covered up in the richness of my African culture, fortified by food we eat with our hands, clothes adorned with color and beads, tales passed down from grandfathers and grandmothers? Do I divide myself? How do I make these two identities intertwine without me being torn into several pieces?
The African identity as it is vivid to me is the familiarity between my neighbors and me, how everyone on my street knows one another too well, the games we play in school while gossiping loudly, loud voices of our school teachers, and market days where I am too excited to see the harshness of that reality. In slight maybe nonexistent contrast, the African American identity as it is vivid to me is Malcolm X, Juneteenth, understanding of black history, identity, joys, struggles, standing out amongst others in school, being celebrated and hated without remorse, hearing the n word and not knowing what to think about it, and the desire to achieve the best so as not to disgrace the efforts of MLK, and many others. That is how it roams in my head and how I see it.
I believe this issue, although very general, is extremely individualistic. It differs from individual to individual but what you have read is what is true to me.
Thanks for reading. I hope you are doing ok:)
**love from this corner always.