I have heard stories and watched the Ted Talks of young and ‘happening’ individuals that seem like they have the world at their beck and call. They are the ones who left when the circumstances were bad, and got back when things went gold. They were born into a level of comfort and wealth; those whose parents felt like the healthcare system of their African home countries were not fit enough to welcome them aboard. These are the kids with semi-dark skins, foreign accents, and African names. I have always been jealous of these kids. I mean, I love Africa, but our love for ‘anything that looks slightly white’, offers these foreign Africans, a better chance to make it – or at least, have it much easier – than the rest of us.
After spending much of their development years in ‘Jand’ or ‘Yankee’, a lot of these kids – thanks to the high-achieving African blood that runs through their veins, go on and do great things. They become popular actors, musicians, news correspondents, and so much more. As a result of their success stories, they are supported by members of their home countries for ‘representing them well’. Peradventure they sail beyond the ocean and set foot on their home countries, they are welcomed back like kings and queens and basically given all the attention in the world. The fab life, I’d say.
However, when it comes to identity matters, these kids have the worst problems and cannot seem to fit in. They know what it feels like not to know exactly who or what they are, and what they represent. A lady who was deep into the identity crisis saga, explained her experience this way. She says when she’s asked where she’s from by friends in the US and she says Atlanta (because that’s where she was born and where she has stayed her whole life), she gets a “No, I mean where are you really from?” This is because, to those guys, she’s from a country far away in Africa.
Worse off, when she then visits her supposed motherland, she’s treated well but only because she’s foreign and possibly an interesting subject, worthy of attention. She doesn’t get to identify with them because she barely looks like them, sounds nothing like them, cannot speak their language, and finds everything about them…different. Crisis of identity, usually pan out like this and the Africans who have studied abroad for the most of their lives, have the best stories to tell.
But, it gets worse.
Have you tried checking out Jhené Aiko’s Nationality? Even though every site would state that she is an American, they still never fail to tell you that she is mixed race. Hers is extreme, but it’s a nice starting point. Her mother is of Japanese, Spanish, and Dominican descent, while her father is of African American, Yaqui, Choctaw, Cherokee, Navajo, and German Jewish descent. I bet she had it really easy explaining that she was American while she was much younger. But hey, she’s an outlier.
Just last year, Alicia Keys, Zendaya, Shaun King, and some more, came out to speak on their biracial struggles. Apparently, they were not considered “black enough” to stand for black social justice. These biracial individuals get accused of ‘trying to be black’. Especially because ‘they don’t understand what it means to be black and the struggles of the black community because they are few shades lighter. “They’re half white”. This is hard for a lot of them because they are forced to choose so many times; most of those times, their answers are never correct.
You would think identity crisis is another western problem, but it looms within our shores. Thanks to our strong sense of culture – and the fact that most parents make sure their kids marry within their tribes, much of it has been controlled. Our strong sense of culture is what would keep me saying I am from Delta State, Nigeria, even though I was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria. This is regardless of the fact that I can barely understand a word of my Delta language. Then, I am also compelled – subtly or otherwise, to get married to somebody originally from my motherland. At least, my children would know exactly where they’re from and would not have both traditions clash while they’re asleep.
The world is stereotypical in Nature and it just cannot do without pigeonholing us, based on predetermined rules. Why does a black kid have to be an African? Why do you question the “black” of a lady because she is two shades lighter? When asked where we are from around here, the question they are meaning to ask is where your parents are from. Thanks to Patriarchy, the clearer question is “Where’s your daddy from?”
Why can’t who I am, be who I tell you I am and nothing else. Unfortunately, the bunch of us now have a ton of issues answering questions relating to where we belong. Our immediate communities believe we are from villages that are miles away, and our supposed people would say same of us. This is why my immediate community in Lagos would call me “Omo Igbo” and my ‘people’ would introduce me as ‘our sister from Lagos, then switch to a language we can both level out on, just so I don’t feel like a stranger in my own ‘home’.
None of these makes any sense.