And I used to get it from all sides. Once in middle school, I was cornered in the gym by a group of black kids who tried to force me to say out loud that I wasn't black. I got a lot of that growing up, reminders that I wasn't "one of them." Not so much as an adult, thank God, which might be a sign that things are changing for the better? Or just a general recognition that a white supremacist would hate both of us with equal fervor no matter where our parents were actually born? Or maybe it's that when you're a kid, you say the dumbest shit ever, and it's only when you grow up that you learn "Oh god? I said that? Really? Oh no. Oh god." Or a mix of all three. Either way, yay for progress.
You Will Feel Guilt About How Good Your Life Is In The U.S.
My mother can put numbers together faster than anyone I know, but she's never been in a classroom before. With her natural proclivities for both math and science, had she had my opportunities, she could have been a mathematician or a scientist or a member of the Avengers -- whatever her heart desired. She is naturally much more talented than I am, but was raised to believe that she should put her family first. I've spent a lot of time growing up feeling guilty about this.
It's not just that my mother didn't get to have access to the same resources I had. I also feel guilty that I do have those resources, but don't exactly take full advantage (I'm not exactly an A student). I used to resent my parents for putting academic pressure on me. I feel guilty about that too, because I now know that they saw that I had an amazing chance they never had. It'd be like if I had a kid who got invited to Hogwarts, and all they did was complain about having to practice their boring levitation spells every night.
I feel guilty that my American friends (and boyfriends) had to go through so many hoops and deal with all of this cultural confusion just to maintain a relationship with me. I feel guilty for being angry at my parents for putting me in that position. I feel guilty because I've never visited Eritrea and I'm not in any hurry to do so. I feel guilty that I don't care about settling down, finding a husband, and having children in a way that is just unfathomable to my parents. I feel guilty because if I do get married and have kids, I'd want them to learn my native language and absorb as much as the culture as possible, no matter where my husband is from.
Hell, I feel guilty for writing this column. This won't be one I'll be showing off to Mom any time soon.
When not struggling with her identity crisis, Archie also writes for BlackGirlNerds.com, and is starting to get the hang of Twitter. Come say hi to her there.
If you had any further interest in learning about Archie's ancestral homeland, here's The Essential Guide to Tigrinya: The Language of Eritrea and Tigray Ethiopia.
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