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“I, too, am Oxford” project http://itooamoxford.tumblr.com/

“I, too, am Oxford” project http://itooamoxford.tumblr.com/

“Where are you from?”

-Verona, Italy

“No, where are you really from?”

-….

Growing up in Italy these questions were asked of me on a daily basis and, I remember feeling uncomfortable and lost. To be Black and Italian involved most of the times an apologetic sentiment that no person should feel, because it create a sense of loss, absence and rejection; a rejection created by a society one loves with all their person. It is damaging to constantly have to realise that one is “less than”.

In a globalised world like ours, where people and commodities are moving at a pace never seen before, one would think that we are all a big happy family of ‘Cosmopolitans’ coming from one place but leaving in another. The truth is we are not! And while I would like to believe the former, I think at the end of the day we are all longing to claim our identity (and please disagree if you think otherwise) as we know it today. Today, and not yesterday.

As an eight years old me growing up in Italy, I never thought the colour of my skin or my surname could ever affect me. I was so naïve to the issues of this world and to the notion of identity that I never questioned it. But when racism became real I found myself unprepared, by my parents, my friends and by society. It was raw and hurtful. I was trying to negotiate my Ghanaian identity and my Italian identity, but it was not happening; on one side I had my Ghanaian family and on the other the Italian society in which I was growing intellectually and culturally. What I was missing was the notion of identity, the blindness to the fact that I could (and I am) both, an African-Italian carrying the African-European heritage as we know it today.

If once upon a time Europe was White and Christian, today it is Multi-ethnically diverse in colour, shape, form, religion and tradition. Identity is not, as the Norwegian archaeologist Olsen (2001: 51) said, “ontologically given but historically constituted” or a “timeless continuity of an organic unity”; Identity is constructed, a result of time and historical development, and while you are thinking that your neighbour is dangerous because they are not White and Christian, think that you are also a ‘Other’ among ‘Others’.

Now thinking about the past, it feels weird and distant, but still, this sentiment of loss returns every time I am asked the ‘where are you from’ question; the difference is that now I can manage the situation.

“Where are you from?”

-Verona, Italy

“No, where are you really from?”

-Do you mean why I am Black and from Italy? You might want to reconsider your notion of identity.

[This post is a follow-up to “READING, WRITING AND TRAVELLING WHILE BLACK AND ITALIAN: thoughts, realities and common places” posted on 22nd Sept 2014]

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