I am British and I am Nigerian – there is a complex duality of identity there which though quite simple to me is often under interrogation. In fact perhaps I have simplified for the purposes of ease of communication because upon reflection identity is multi-layered and cannot even be defined but in this instance I have focused on its duality. Whilst I am secure in who I am I do enjoy discussing this duality and so I was excited to be invited onto The Global Chatter podcast hosted by Amanda Bates, founder of The Black Expat platform. The Global Chatter podcast is a vibrant ongoing conversation which brings together Black and Brown people from across the world and focuses on international mobility, identity, race, career and more. It was a great opportunity for me to discuss so many of the issues that I am passionate about include race, ethnicity and class nuances that are sometimes lacking in British discourse. Amanda is a great host who made space for an honest and authentic conversation and we shared our experiences of being first generation women within the African diaspora.
We spoke about the cost of assimilation for the working class, the reinforcement of classism and elitism and the impact of upward mobility:
“I know my generation, and subsequent generations wanted to assimilate because it was safety. And I understand that. Because of the way racism operates in this world, it makes you think you have to do your best to camouflage…blend in and almost be a chameleon.
We know now, it doesn’t work. And I’ve never tried to do that. Because I don’t think it’s worth the mental gymnastics.
I’m not interested in assimilation. I was born here. I have nothing to prove. ”
Assimilation in and of itself although a survival mechanism leads to an erasure of identity and a collective silencing which can rob us of who we really are. It was refreshing to be able to discuss this especially when we look at how we document our stories and legacies within our diasporan communities. I highlighted how important it is to recognise and embrace the duality of identity (being both British and Nigerian).
We also touched on why corporate brands often fail at messaging around social justice as well my experience studying abroad in the U.S at The University of Richmond, VA. Tune into my episode on spotify (or other podcast apps) and share your thoughts.