"What's your culture? What are you? Where are you from?"
Three questions that make me more nervous than a multiple choice quiz. I tend to asses the situation and then answer based on how much time I think they have.
A) A while: "Oh, well, I'm originally from Tanzania, but I grew up in Minnesota. So I was born in Tanzania, moved to the U.S. when I was 1 yrs old, lived there for 9 years, moved back to Tanzania, then back to the U.S. for college when I was 18. Ethnically I'm Tanzanian, Somali, Seychellois and Yemenis.
B) Just met them. Not much time at all: "I'm from Tanzania."
Due to the 50/50 split between the U.S. and Tanzania and my plethora of ethnicities, I can't help but feel as though I don't fully belong to any culture. Growing up in the U.S. I was most definitely exposed to Western culture, to American ideals and values, American pop culture and felt somewhat connected to Minnesota. But I could not and cannot disregard my time spent in Tanzania; a place I only called home after I moved back to it. Tanzania -- when we lived in the U.S. -- felt like a vacation home we visited every so often. But Minnesota at the time was home. It was only when I moved back to Tanzania that I truly felt diaspora. African but not African, African and American but not African-America.
I was lost and confused. Home was not home, I belonged to no country and to no culture. It took me a while to figure out the in the multiple choice test that is your culture and background, there is no right answers or restrictions to how many boxes you tick. Now at 20 years old, I'm ticking all the boxes that apply.
"So do you feel like you belong to one culture more than the other?"
Not at all, no. There are things in American culture that are innate in my being, that I fully understand and feel connected to and there are things to which I am completely alien. Same goes with Tanzanian culture. I connect with different aspects of each culture. I've been trying my best to unify the two and allow myself to do so without feeling guilty. I used to feel as though my answer to such questions owed an explanation. I'm only now understanding that I don't need a little leather booklet with stamps in it to tell my where I'm from, nor birth certificate, skin color, hair-type or accent.
I can identify with whatever culture I feel apart of. I am American and African. I am Tanzanian and Minnesotan. I may not be African-American but I experience certain aspect of American culture. What sets me apart from my African-American counterparts is that they experience African culture that is directly influenced and affected by American culture. I experience American culture and African culture separately, not all together, all at once and in one place. I am left to connect the two cultures myself, to draw similarities and differences to infer which aspects I accept into my everyday living and which I do not.
I will always be dizzy with multicultural disorder, always feel a little out of place in any place -- be it the U.S. or Tanzania -- but I know now that I can call both home, that I belong only to myself and that where I choose to place myself or connect myself to, is up to me and me only.