Talk Africa: “Walking a Fine Line”
I still remember being cornered by two boys in my class during recess. I had asked to be the pitcher but these two boys didn’t think that was a good idea, so fists and legs were their response, and I went home, another day bruised and tearful. After years of torment, I forced my accent away; I exchanged British terms for American slang, and made friends with teachers who were surprised, but accepting of the little African girl who liked to learn.
Being an immigrant in this country means accepting two identities simultaneously; one of assumed excellence and one failure. As a person of color, we are assumed to be African American first, and all the assumptions related to Blackness in America are levied on us, momentarily erasing our ethnic identity, and forcing us to represent our brothers and sisters, which is inappropriate in many cases, and simply unfair in others. Once we ‘come out’ as Africans, then we shed the identity of the Black American, and become the starving African child answering for the entire continent.
I have been asked if I have a hut in the jungle, if I see lions daily, why I speak English, why I am smart, if we wear loincloths, whether there are cities and if so, what things can be found there. If they find out we have McDonalds, they wonder if we have wild game, instead of beef, in our burgers. In trading a western identity for my foreign one, I become a thing on display, present for inspection; an opportunity for Americans to interrogate and understand a real life African. They are amazed at the innovation, and the intelligence, but really I think they are astonished how much I, the African, am like them, the American.