James Baldwin once said, ” I love America more than any other country in the world, and exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her”. My love for my county is exactly why I must point out this fatal flaw that inhibits her people from truly living harmoniously. Conversations surrounding the topic of race have taken center stage over the past two years. It is a topic that I have discussed with my British peers a number of times since my arrival on this side of the pond. Typically, when they talk about how America deals with race, the examples I’m presented with are the Civil War, Jim Crow, the Civil Rights Movement, and the multiple instances of police brutality against men of color. I can’t say I blame them. While the U.K. may not be innocent in its demeaning of racial others, I would argue that it has certainly progressed farther the U.S. Take, for example, the capital city of London where I currently reside. It is certainly the most multicultural city on this island. There is something to be said for living in a metropolis whose various communities mingle in and out almost seamlessly on a daily basis. I recently had a friend say how impossible it is to be racist when you live in an area that is so diverse. If only that were true in the United States.
For me personally, I enjoy being identified by my nationality and not my race. Something I haven’t had the privilege of doing since I was a child. At home, I am an African American. There is some need and necessity for me to identify myself with my ancestral roots whenever asked. Even while attending an HBCU (historically black college or university), I am hyper-aware of the racial identity attached to the national one. I do appreciate the support of such a community but it can be both reaffirming and isolating. Here in London, I am simply an American. And while I may have brown skin and braided hair, American is what I am. It’s freeing and cathartic. For me, there is no loss in not being immediately associated with my race. There is also less pressure to be twice as good to get half. I’ve no doubt that all that I am is synonymous with potential greatness, the relief comes in simply working on it and not constantly reminding others of it.
The only time I truly am reminded of my blackness is when I’m around some of my American peers. I find myself often reminding them that their jokes are offensive to me. I am then reminded of how I am perceived in my own country. I have long-since ceased my attempt to correct them. I instead find solace exploring the streets of the city; Brixton in particular. The freedom I have to do so without judgement may in fact be because I am American and not British, but it is a freedom nonetheless. One I do not take lightly. I am curious though. London and the U.K. have just as important a chapter in the African Diaspora as the U.S. does. Exploring it, is something that I am sure I will find worthwhile. Until next time.
Love and Light,