“Where are you from?”
“I’m from the United States, Boston to be exact”
“No I mean where are you from, from”
“Okay where are your parents from?”
“They are from Ghana”
“So you are from Ghana then”
“Yes I am but I live/grew up in Boston”
“So why do you not say you are from Ghana”
“I don’t know”
The aforementioned conversation snippet is usually how conversations start with some African people I meet. I recently got into a contentious debate with a Cameroonian guy about the intersectionality of my gay and Ghanaian identity. He asserted that I can’t be a gay African/Ghanaian since its an oxymoron. He said I had to choose one. As in, If I wanted to be gay, I had to stick with my “African American/western” identity and live openly.
I have always had an existential identity crisis growing up. I didn’t know where I belonged sometimes. I was either too “white” too fit in with the “blacks” (I was mostly referred to as an oreo throughout high school),or I was too bourgeoisie to understand the plight/struggles of “African-Americans”. And my favourite was that I was too “westernised” to call myself Ghanaian or African. Include the gay bit and it complicates everything.
As I have mentioned several times on this blog, I wasn’t bothered with my racial identity when I was growing up. Heck I used to select “other” or change my “race” on every standardised test I took. For all my university applications, I didn’t check my race section (I still get a lot of criticism for that as most people claim that it would have enabled me to get loads of scholarship since I’m considered a minority). While I didn’t care about racial politics, I cared about my Ghanaian heritage and Pan-Africanism. I got offended when ignorant remarks were made about Africa or when people called Africa a country. I remember when I came back to the US after spending a few years in Ghana , I was asked by a couple of guys if I slept in a hut and chased lions for fun. I was soo mad that I just gave them deathly stares. Yet I still identify with my “Americaness” when I am outside the US. Every time some asks me where I’m from I say Boston, U.S. instead of Accra, Ghana. Why is that?