Nigerian American.

“Belonging to many groups but never truly fitting in one.” I hate that phrase because it is partly true. Our world is changing. There are so many people not “belonging” to one particular nationality or culture. I was born in the U.S., grew up in Nigeria and also lived in Malaysia and Qatar. I do not speak any of the Nigerian languages. I only speak English. I could lie and say I speak a little bit of French but who am I kidding? I can conjugate the heck out of some verbs because we all know learning a language in school doesn’t really teach you how to speak. Anyways… that’s a topic for another day. Many people in the same boat will tell you not being able to speak your mother tongue creates a disconnect from the culture. Don’t get me wrong. I am Nigerian true and true. If Nigerian pidgin english were a language, you could say I am bilingual although sadly that is not the case. Even in Nigeria, I embody more than one ethnic identity. My dad is Yoruba and Sabogida-Ora (a very small ethnic group that even other Nigerians aren't aware of). He grew up in Lagos and speaks fluent Yoruba. My mum is full Benin (not the country) and grew up in Benin City. Both my parents have moved around a lot and schooled in various countries. Which explains why my brother and I are very open to all cultures. This is why my parents choose to speak mainly english to us. Not being able to speak Yoruba or Benin does mean, I will not "fully fit in", especially with older generations. I would love to join in, when my mum and grandparents are cracking jokes. But most of the time, I just sit here smiling and nodding like an idiot. I can pick up some words here and there but it is not the same.

American Born, Nigerian Raised

Language may be an example of a disconnect although there are infinite, numerous and countless things that outweigh that one disconnect. To be able to adapt and fit into several groups is a blessing. To embody more than one identity and culture is a gift I should never take for granted. Our world is changing and soon no one will truly belong to one group or have one nationality, race or ethnicity. This idea scares a lot of people. This is why I beilive there is an increase in hate speech and terrorism around the world. People are afraid of what they do not know and what they can not control. I understand change can be terrifying but embracing our differences nurtures self growth and love. Sometimes, I envy those that grew up in the same place they were born, their parents and grandparents were born. To know everyone in your town. To have a community so close that everyone knowns one another by name. That is a beautiful thing. It only goes awry, when a community does not welcome someone solely because that individual does not look like them, dress like them or speak like them. We should not judge but if we must it should not be based on appearance but rather on one’s character and morals. Growing up, I believed I had to choose between being Nigerian or American. That mentality of choosing which identity to embody needs to stop. For me, it has always been choosing between my nationalities and cultures. For some people, it is an identity that is more visible such as race. From a young age, mixed race kids are always asked ridiculous questions like, “are you more of your [insert race here] side or your [insert race here] side?” They should never have to choose. The idea of forcing people to fit into a box is wrong. We can be more than one thing and that is okay. Actually, it is much more than okay. It is amazing!