Do you ever just stop and think for a while: ‘Who am I’? ‘Where do I really fit in’? ‘Where do I really belong’? ‘Why am I so different’?
A few days ago, I was having a conversation with one of my friends from Nigeria, when she steered me toward the realization that we both don’t really know where we fit in. Some may take this to mean in terms of friendship, societal labels or whatever. However, for my friend and I both is a peculiar case, I’d say.
Being an African girl in a white country is an interesting experience. There is this picture of Africa that has been imprinted in people’s minds – a dilapidated, savage, poor, primitive and wild Africa. The minute that I reveal my African identity is the moment that I’m flooded with idiotic glances and questions, sometimes of pity. ‘Do you live with lions in your backyard’? ‘Why is your English so good’? ‘You have no accent’! Even in one of my classes, ‘Oh, Do you know what Raisin Bran is’? Come on. ‘Do you speak the African language’? At the beginning of the year, I fell sick and this lady at the hospital seriously asked if I had Ebola and thought that I didn’t hear her!!!!!!????? One girl in my school said to one of my friends, “Oh my God, this girl from Africa got malaria, and now we’re all scared – we hope we don’t have it too.” How does that make me feel? I can’t be quiet because that’s demeaning to me, but I can’t lose my temper either, because that will confirm the stereotype of a barbaric, black African girl.
You may not relate to this, but maybe to the feeling of being somewhat different from everyone around you. I am aware of the stereotypes that come with my identity. You may think that you’re complimenting me, being nice, or showing genuine concern, but no, really, it’s a lot to process. Don’t touch my hair. Yes, I speak fluent English, despite it not being my first language. No, I’m not stupid. No, I’m not ugly nor primitive. No, I don’t live in the bushes. And don’t ask me stupid questions.
Back home is a different case. As I mentioned earlier, there is this picture of Africa that has been imprinted in people’s minds, but there is also a beauty in my Africa. I grew up in a very sheltered environment and went to a fairly good school. I didn’t have the typical African child’s experience. I do know of it, but I’m not ‘hard-core’ nor did I grow up needy. I went to a diverse high school with students from all walks of life, and some of my classmates would jokingly refer to me as coddled. I’m too organized about my life. I don’t let loose enough. I don’t speak the ghetto Swahili so well. My English is proper. At home, I do have an accent, and some people apparently have a problem with that. I’m trying to be white? No, I’m too proud of my blackness to ever wish to be white. The teenage experience, at least in my country, is to be wild, rebellious and to just not care. I’m the exact opposite of that. I’m obedient, reserved, introverted, and care about every single aspect of my life – that’s just how I’ve been brought up. As a result, I never felt so connected to many of my friends back at home. I just didn’t have that experience.
In both my worlds, I feel alien-like. I’m not the typical American teenage girl. Neither am I the typical Kenyan teenage girl. But maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Stereotypes die hard, but I can only hope and pray for a future that is more accepting of everyone. Honestly, just be you. Be the real, imperfect, quirky, flawed, weird, beautiful and magical person that you are. Get it from me, I like different 😉
Be sure to check out my other blogs, and reach out to me about similar experiences, or anything and everything!
Fearlessly be yourself! 🙂