My African Self



A Question of Identity

Identity and Labels; Here’s my understanding. Identity is what you associate yourself with being while a label is what you get tagged as by others using certain criteria.

By nationality I’m Tanzanian. By race I’m African. By ethnicity I’m Bantu. By tribe, I’m Sambaa and Pare. All of these equate to form one individual. There are debates that race, ethnicity, nationality and all others don’t and shouldn’t matter, as we’re all part of one race, the human race. I, on the other hand, don’t agree with that. Yes, these affiliations shouldn’t hinder relationships with others but these identities are equally important. They tell a story and contribute to the person that you are today, your history, how you got to be who you are. They are an essential marker in your genome and celebrate you.

So here’s why I chose to write this. As identity is a choice of the character or condition one identifies with I’ve come to an understanding of what just that is to me. Before I left the bubble of my beautiful diverse country I never thought of this. By being exposed to the greater world have such thoughts come to mind. Black; that’s what has been mostly used to characterize me and a million other individuals like me. The colour of my skin, my facial features, kinky hair (albeit not everyone can see) all lead to that summation, which fair enough I get. But being black is not what I identify with. Being black is not what I know. In fact, to my understanding being black is a wholly unique and distinct culture on its own.

For me a Black person is someone of African descent or roots who weren’t exposed to those African roots growing up with all that has remained being the colour of their skin. The African-Americans, Afro-Latinos (who don’t necessarily identify as black), Caribbean etc. . . . These groups of people have evolved from their African ancestry and created unique ethnic groups of their own. They might have started out as Africans but the product we’ve ended up with is truly unique.

With this description, you can probably tell why I DON’T identify as black. I was born, raised, grew up and still live in Tanzania, along with my entire family tree to as far as we can trace back. My bringing up was Tanzanian, surrounded by a culture so deeply African. To be labeled as Black is wrong to me for I don’t know about that group, apart from what I manage to see on T.V and the few black people I’ve come across. Being categorized as Black or another social group isn’t right to me because it comes with subconsciously being associated with the traits, character, and stereotypes coming from that group; be it good or bad. Just as not all people with a “white” complexion are part of the white race, not all people dripping with melanin are black.

I am an African, which is what I identify with and would like to be labeled as such.

Not to be misunderstood, there’s nothing wrong with being black but this is a matter of identity and I personally do not identify as black. I’m proud to be African, knowing my roots and where I come from, granted there are the negative stereotypes associated with my people. However, I’d rather be responsible for breaking those stereotypes and changing the view of the world on my people than being held to standards which are not mine. These views are mine and you’re open to having your own.


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