Open Letters

An Open Letter: The In Between African

Dear Friend,

I can only speak for myself and my experiences, but I want to say whoever you are, you’re not alone.  Growing up in two completely different cultural experiences was tough. Really tough.  It was an interesting, sometimes difficult, always constant dynamic of finding where you fit in.  You comfort yourself with the notion that your family did the best they could, however, they only seemed to value your African identity.  What of the identity you were exposed to on a daily basis?

You didn’t have the luxury of growing up in whatever African country your heritage comes from.  You were born here.  Having to dismiss an identity you live through every day sometimes makes you feel like a stranger in your own skin.  I get it.  Don’t marry an American oh!  This is not your culture.  This is not your country oh! But…But…I live here.

I love being African.  I love going to my FIRST home.  It’s important to value your cultural identity.  But, I still live…here.  The first time I was called an African booty scratcher I went home and cried.  Not so much because of the insult, but the day before that, I was with MY PEOPLE, and they taunted me and called me the white girl.  I cried because I wanted to be apart of but felt like I didn’t fit in anywhere.

So it was kind of unfortunate that I was deprived of, or didn’t have the self-awareness to fuse both my identities.  But as a kid, I didn’t know how to do it or what it would mean for me.  Don’t we look up to adults to first teach us how to love?  Love ourselves and others? And if we can’t love ourselves wholly?  How do we love others?  I didn’t understand the divide as I kid, all I wanted was to be a kid.  Not African.  Not Dark-skinned.  Not Smarter than.  Just a regular kid.  But I wasn’t ever really a kid.  I kind of just existed in-between.

Some people were lucky though.  They were lucky enough to be around those who had an understanding of the symbiotic relationship of having multiple social identities.  They adapted, but not to the disadvantage of their dominant cultural identity.  They made sure to teach their language, but also talk to their children.  Not just about their rich culture, but objectively, what living HERE meant. And that’s what I’m going to do.  And that’s what I hope you do.

It’s not too late though.  Your in between-ness doesn’t have to restrict you.  You have this letter. You’re aware. Embrace both.  Extract the richness from both your identities and make them the you that helps you to accept you.  If that makes sense. I don’t mean for you to assimilate, but to integrate.  Cause you’re one of the lucky ones.  You can say you were easily exposed to more than one thing.  Some people don’t even have passports.  Be grateful.

As I said before, I only mean to speak for myself and my experiences.  But whoever you are, wherever you are.  You’re not alone.

Sincerely,

The In Between African.

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13 thoughts on “An Open Letter: The In Between African

  1. I appreciate this post a lot, because I think it can apply to many different backgrounds. As a biracial kid, I felt a similar feeling but for obviously different reasons. Great post!

  2. Interesting blog Kemi, I can’t really sit here and say I experienced the same thing because I spent my my childhood and teenage years in Africa; however, as a Nigerian living in The US I can completely relate to the constant conflicts of acculturation. Yes I’m an American citizen, but I never really fit in as your typical American; I’m black and I speak with an accent, so while u had to deal with folks not fully certifying ur “Africanism” I have to deal with the reverse of folks making me understand I am not like the typical American. I have a year old daughter who would grow up and experience some of the things you went thru so I’d make sure as much as I emphasize speaking Yoruba and learning the Nigerian culture, she also must appreciate and value the importance of being an American.

  3. Speaking/writing for yourself…. AND a million others! Including me.

    Great write up! This will remain at the back and front of our minds as we raise our kids and help them understand what our parents couldn’t help us with.

  4. Lol… hmmm. I guess it helps to be retarded like myself. I can’t even tell the difference. Naija to me is so westernized, apart from the clothes and language, can’t tell nothing apart culturally. Or maybe i’m not retarded, just blind, or deaf, and too stubborn to really care. For me tho, I have always embraced what made me different and unique from most people. I’ve always loved being an introvert to some extent. Hmmm.

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