Shereen Nassuna, 20, Student
Cross Cultural Identity and Me
Let’s keep our feet firmly on the ground attached to the roots, but allow ourselves to spring up and reach, always…
I’ve been moving around with a sense of ‘difference’ for as long as I can remember. I know that my identity as a young black British woman is filled with many layers, but it was only recently that I began to realise and truly value this importance.
The majority of my life thus far has been spent in a place surrounded by people who do not necessarily share this identity. This has led to a formula for my own special ‘cultural identity’. Something, many within our generation are lucky to experience. Layered closely underneath my obvious identity as a Black British woman lies my heritage as an African, more specifically, Ugandan woman.
My dad is always lecturing me on the importance of culture. The importance of my heritage as a Ugandan and the rich, vibrant culture this bears. I now realise that his intentions were not to make me feel as though I didn’t belong ‘here’, but it was more that he wanted me to remember where I would always belong, no matter what.
What is culture and is it even important to me? Cultural identity is all about how we perceive ourselves after all. For me, the answer to this question lies in the fact that my heritage comes from a place with deep rooted history, cultural practices and traditions, languages and so forth. I do not think it would be correct for me to accept the person I am whilst denying all of this and how I came to be. Many of us choose to do so because we are ashamed but if there is anything growing up in London has taught me, it is that these are the things that make us interesting and important.
Without making my life seem like a sob-story (because it has not been and to imply it has would be offensive I am aware), this is something I have always struggled with. The blurred lines between my cultural identity and the Western society that nurtured me. Growing up, feeling unable to keep up with those whose culture is very much rooted in this country, and those whose parents do not place respect and servitude as a priority when raising their children. Then at the same time, being so out of touch with my Ugandan culture, that as much as I am now willing to embrace it, I will always be seen as British or Westernized to ‘real’ Ugandans.
If culture was truly insignificant I don’t believe so many of us would experience this 'fish out of water' feeling. I am proud of my culture, as I realise now more than ever how much it has shaped me as a person. The way I treat people and navigate the world is entrenched in something much deeper than my immediate thought. My extended family and understanding of difference included.
If there is a lesson to be learnt in life, it is that you cannot hide who you truly are. It is nearly impossible. So let’s keep our feet firmly on the ground attached to the roots, but allow ourselves to spring up and reach, always.