The ‘other’ box. The multi-national. The British. The Algerian. The privileged. The red passport. The-not-too-Arab, not-too-British. The bilingual. The broken Arabic. The 1,2,3, viva l’algerie.
How many of these terms are constantly thrown at your face? As if your ethnicity is something you chose. As if the land you were born in was something you chose.
Don’t get me wrong, I recognize my privileges and I am to use them for the good of society, but it’s so easy to fall into the trap of identity politics. The funny thing is, I didn’t notice it until people started pointing it out.
“You have an accent”
“Why do you wear that thing on your head?”
“Are you bold?”
I’m originally Algerian but I was raised in London. On top of that, I’m also Muslim and so even though I’ve had the amazing opportunity of growing up in a multicultural and multi-faith society, it did come with its challenges.
Some people may not fully understand your beliefs, and that’s okay because it’s beyond our control, fortunately. How someone responds to us is beyond our control. What is in our control, however, is whether we attach our sense of identity to someone’s words.
Just because someone does not agree with you, it does make you less Algerian, less British, less Muslim – less human. It simply means that they have a different way of looking at things as a result of the type of environment they grew up in. I also often felt like I didn’t fit in either society, British or Algerian.
I learned to stop thinking about things that are beyond my control such as my ethnicity and instead, embrace all my unique qualities and layers.
I learned to be at home everywhere, and at the same time, be homeless so that I don’t get too attached to any geographical location and so that my identity isn’t wrapped around a certain culture or environment.
What I will say though, is to focus on learning the language of the society you are in. That is the best way to get to know people inside out as it is through communication that walls of ignorance, misconceptions, and false assumptions break down, and instead, a seed of understanding that shares both the lands are able to grow and flourish.
I am both Algerian and British, and nobody can take that away from me. I’ll show up in the space with confidence, carrying all the unique qualities that I was taught to hate because I know there is beauty in difference.
Image by @bill_oxford via Unsplash