On Realizing I am Black [Creating Space]

Creating Space is a 5 part series that will be featured on Hugs & Lattes every Wednesday through the month of November. This is the 2nd installment. To view last week’s post, see here. Please note that the interviewee’s experiences are their own; they cannot speak for anyone and everyone in their circumstances. While stories may be similar, each individual has their own perspective. 

creating space

I found Asaake in the blog world a couple of months ago, and quickly fell in love with her writing style and her hair. (She rocks the gray hair and I absolutely love it.) Over the past couple of months, she has taught me more about Nigeria and we have compared notes on the similarities and differences between Zimbabweans and Nigerian culture and food. Nigerian food is way spicy, which I think I would like! When I was thinking of people to ask to participate in this Creating Space series, I knew I had to ask Asaake to share her experiences growing up in Nigeria and moving to America.

on realizing i am black

Tell Me A Little About Yourself

Tell me a little bit about where you grew up, your family life, what you do, etc.

I was born and raised in Nigeria. I come from a pretty big family so I lived with my siblings and cousins for most of my childhood. I currently work in the medical field, working on my masters and blogging in my spare time.  

What was it like for you to move from Nigeria and settle into life in America?

For the most part, it’s been pretty smooth. I had family members here already so settling in was fairly easy. However, I did have a hard time making friends for the first few years because I just felt like Americans just didn’t get me. Everything here was so different and people’s definition of “fun” seemed very different. Things have been adjusting fairly well now that I am much older and have become my own woman.

What was the biggest culture shock for you when you moved to America?

For me it was the fact that Americans could call their elders by their names *gasps*. In Nigeria, everyone older than you or perceived to be older or in a higher status has to have a “aunty” or “uncle” before their name. It’s just a sign of respect. That was very uncomfortable for me to grasp.

creating space

On Identity

How has growing up in America shaped your identity?

It wasn’t until I moved to the US that I realized that I am a black woman. I wasn’t sure how to relate with white people when I first moved to the Us and so i found myself always gravitating to black people and Africans because that was familiar to me. I ended up applying to a HBCU for that reason. A year later, I just didn’t quite fit into the HBCU experience.

The US made me realize that I am “African” and not “African American” but I am still Black. I learned what it truly means to be a minority here. I learnt colorism here- being a light skinned Black woman and feeling like I’m not black enough most times and not worthy to on “hashtag Melanin Monday”.

Do you have any pivotal memories growing up that strengthened or weakened your perception and identity of who you are?

I have had some pivotal memories that have both strengthened and weakened my perception of who I am. In relation to the topic of race in America, I think my first experience dating a white guy was pivotal for me. I knew it was allowed, my family is actually extremely open and accepting when it comes to individuals of other races. However, I don’t think I truly understood how to relate with white people without feeling like i’m losing my own self or my black identity. With dating my first white boyfriend, It taught me that I could still whole heartedly love someone of a different race and share my life and experiences with them without feeling like I’m losing some of my “blackness”. And that I could truly embrace other races and acknowledge our differences in Love without betraying the black race. From then on, i found that my relationship with white people blossomed. It opened the way for me to develop amazing friendships with non white people.

What is something that you love/embrace about your race/culture?

I love the culture, the people, the language and the food! Nigerian foods are one of the tastiest I have ever tried. Our languages are very distinct and our people can be very welcoming. I also love how communal my culture is compared to the individualistic culture here in America.

What is something that is difficult to embrace about your race/culture?

One thing that’s hard for me to embrace is the fact that many families desire a boy child more than a girl child. Male children are treated differently. Gender roles are taken to the extreme. I’m blessed to be from a family where this isn’t really an issue but It bothers me that there are people who actually deal with this.

creating space

On Racism and Faith in America

What are some microaggressions you have experienced in the US?

Omgosh so many!

I cannot stand when people ask me how my English is so perfect. Ugh, it’s 2017 people… We really do speak English in Africa.

Also, when people ask me if my hair is real -_-. I would never ask a white girl if her hair is real, I don’t know why people think it’s okay to ask black girls that. There’s just this wack belief that black girls can’t have long hair and so when you see a black girl with long hair you’re curious if it’s real or not. It’s actually annoying.

I’ve be followed around in stores especially in Asian stores and then having them try to nudge me towards cheaper items. Sometimes they even go as far as stressing the price of an item i want to buy as if unsure that I can afford it.  Quite frankly, I dread going to Asian stores for that reason.

Lastly, being told that I’m not “like other black people”. LOL listen. Don’t do it.

How do you respond in these instances?

I often just don’t respond because I’m just not a confrontational person. I have not learnt a productive way to respond to microaggressions so i’d rather just not respond. However, I might leave a smart comment here and there because I have a smart mouth.

How do you reconcile your faith with the racial tension we have witnessed this past year?

It is comforting for me to know that we are all one under Christ regardless of which racial group we belong in. Jesus sees us the same and loves us the same. As a christian, I know I am called to love others no matter what. This keeps me grounded even in my response to people who do not like me because of my skin color.

How has your local church responded/how has the global church responded in your opinion?

My local church is amazing. I go to a predominantly white church that is very much racially aware! We have lots of white families who adopt black children and seeing that every Sunday warms  my heart. Same goes for seeing the support these families are getting from members of the church. My church does not shy away from the issue of diversity and topics like racism etc. there  seems to be an open and warm environment for people to discuss and interact with members of different races. Our pastors do not hesitate to speak up on the racial divide and tension in the country. More so, the church does not hesitate to denounce white supremacy and any other form of racism no matter how minute.

What is one thing you wish the white community could understand when it comes to race and racism in America?

I really do wish the white community would understand that black people who fight for the rights of black people and the rights of minorities in America so not hate white people. Speaking up against racism and discrimination of minorities by white people doesn’t mean you hate white people.

creating space

On Unity

What does unity look like to you?

Unity looks like Christ! It is loving those we do not necessarily like with the Love of Christ. It is acknowledging that though we are different, we do not have to hate each other for our differences. We can actually enjoy those differences, learn from it and enjoy the beauty that it brings. Diversity is beautiful!

What are practical ways the white community partner and align with the minority community?

The history of race is uncomfortable. It will always be uncomfortable. Running away from this issue doesn’t make it go away. The white community need to accept this and decide that NOW is the time to face it. I must say that I am truly proud of those who have the courage to embrace it in their own little way- whether is having the discuss with their friends, neighbors, etc.

  1. It’s important for white people to listen and hear black people/POC out when issues like this arises. Listen to these voices and don’t try to invalidate their experiences.
  2. Seek out friends in other races. The easiest way to learn about how you can support minories is from minories. If you don’t have people in your inner cycle to learn from then this becomes harder.
  3. Acknowledge that white privilege does exist and use that privilege for good. I’ll be honest, when i see issues about race online, i follow the thread just to see what white people have to say about it. It truly makes me happy when I see white people speaking up against racism and discrimination in a thread. It’s these little things that truly matter.
  4. Don’t be color blind. And don’t say you’re color blind either. It just never comes out right. Don’t say.
  5. If you’re one of those who say “all lives matter” when you hear “black lives matter”… please stop!

Thank you so much to Asaake for her vulnerability and authentic conversation on race in America. Join us next week as we talk with Ro about her experience with race and identity being in an interracial/intercultural relationship.

creating space

I’m Asaake, a 26-year-old Jesus lover & part-time blogger. I enjoy blogging about green beauty & slow living. I am currently transitioning to minimalism and totally enjoy the process of letting go of stuff and embracing living a beautiful less with fewer things.  I spend my time drinking tea and learning about how to live a simple yet fulfilling life.I’m everywhere, InstagramFacebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Share:Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestEmail to someone