I’m excited to announce that tomorrow i’ll be boarding a plane bound for South Africa. I’ll be working with the #MeetSouthAfrica to promote tourism to South Africa. This is my first trip to Africa as a travel journalist and I’m excited to be covering such a diverse country. But I’m also excited for another reason. I get to explore a topic that I struggle with. My cultural identity.
Every black man will eventually have to question, or be asked, about their identity. World travel has forced me to question my identity as an American, Man, and yes, a Black Man. Black identity is a very complicated subject in the United States. You have deeply held beliefs that run the range from “We aren’t African at all” to “All African-Americans should go back to Africa”. And many of us fall into the category I’m in. Discovering.
I’m NOT African!!!
My Nigerian friends were the first to point this out. I’m not African. WAY WAY back I have African ancestors. Yes. Like every other person on the planet earth. Now I don’t deny my connection to my African ancestry. But I’m distinctly American and the label of African-American bothers me more and more. Mainly because I KNOW Nigerians, Ghanians, South Africans, and Libyans personally. They’re African. We are surely brothers and sisters in the struggle for equality. But I won’t pretend I don’t benefit from my “Passport Privilege”. Outside the US, I’m an American before a black man.
Few similarities exist between African-Americans and Africans anymore than AA’s and South Americans. Now many AA’s, specifically one’s whom haven’t spent much/any time in African nations, refuse to acknowledge. And it’s frustrating to see so many of us clinging to a false identity. AA’s have LITERALLY been bred like animals to be who we are today. All culture, language, and tradition removed and replaced with a bastardized European form of each.
We aren’t white but expected to act so. We are told to pursue the “American Dream” which wasn’t designed for us but built on our backs. We are told to celebrate those who have, and continue to, marginalized and abuse us. We are told the US is the greatest nation on the planet yet young black men are gunned down in the streets. If I’m not African and I’m not a “full” American, then who am I?
Determining Your Own Identity
Too often we latch on to what we’ve been taught as children to be true. We’re programmed from an early age to think, act, walk, and talk a certain way. Usually this is along racial, sexual orientation, religious, or socio economic lines. I do believe we are products of our environments, but we aren’t slaves to them.
Our evolution as people relies on the understanding that not everything we’ve been taught is right. I was taught that homosexuality is wrong. I was taught that “whites” are the enemy. I was taught that women are inferior to men. None of which I believe today. You have to challenge your programming or your nothing but a drone.
Use your cultural programming as a guide to discover yourself. You are allowed to chose what parts of your cultural programming that you will embrace and what you’ll reject. Don’t allow others to dictate who you are. The moment you are capable of determining right from wrong, you’re responsible for the person you are and want to become.
The Importance of a Cultural Struggle
My struggle to identify culturally has been something constantly present in my life. I’m “light skinned”. I come from a family where many have darker skin. Growing up I was often depicted as not “black” enough. Not only because of my skin tone but the way that I thought and acted. Hell my work here is constantly attacked as not “black enough”. And this is an issue that many young black men and women face daily. Many believe it to be a socio economic struggle, which is true. But it’s also a cultural one.
I can’t tell you how many lives I’ve seen ruined when people work so hard to perpetuate the antiquated identity we’ve been shackled with. When we struggle with identity it allows us the broaden our social, intellectual, and cultural potential. Struggle is the catalyst for change. Embrace it and allow that to guide you down the path of self discovery.
Part of that journey must begin with understanding the roots of your current cultural identity. For me, that includes the African slave trade, Civil Rights movement, and current socio economic situation in the United States. Research and discovery are paramount.
I look forward to the next two weeks in South Africa with #MeetSouthAfrica. Not only exploring their rich and vibrant history, but exploring my thoughts and cultural identity. Please follow me on social media and here as I travel from April to mid May.
Have you ever dealt with an Identity Crisis? How did you overcome it? Did you overcome it? Comment below.