The Melting Pot Outside of the US

Back in my elementary school years, I always wondered what exactly went on at school during those joyous ‘Teacher Workdays’. Did they really come into work? What work was there to do, if I’m not there? Well, I had my 1st teacher workweek and it was actually quite interesting. Today and yesterday were lectures about culture. The Arabic teachers came in and gave us an insight on their lives outside of the classroom and how school was for them growing up, so that we could better understand our students. I’ll tell you more about that later.

But what really caught my attention was today’s discussion. It was our chance to understand this crazy mix of foreign English teachers. Our university has 100ish females of every race, nationality, and religion .. from White African to Black European Muslim to Korean American Christian. We each explained our immediate to distant backgrounds, and what has formed our sub-culture. The purpose of this exercise was for us to drop our stereotypes and understand how everyone define themselves. In the end, the hope was for everyone to accept the extreme Saudi differences, just as we’ve learned to accept our peers. Although the different accents and complexions are obvious, the explanation behind it provided an interesting history/anthropology lesson. For example, one of our teachers is an American albino from Detroit. “African-American” is her sub-culture. When asked why she is very strong-voiced about it, she comes to the conclusion that “on the outside (by being albino) she is unable to show it”. I understand and love how she answered. So often you hear of people trying to prove their identity.

After a while, it’s my turn. I defined my sub-culture as “Black American”. The Europeans caught the difference in my answer almost immediately, even though I said it subconsciously. Why am I “Black American” and she “African American”?? Well… I can’t tell you which African country my ancestors were from. I’ve never been to Africa. And what does a person who moves from Nigeria to the US call themselves (just as any immigrant who adopts American culture)? African-American….

What I do know though, is that I am Black. According to the Black European leading the discussion, putting a color for race is taboo and seen negatively. But what perhaps also makes my answer different, is being from the South, where “Black” and “White” are simply common titles to distinguish a group w/o being very specific, and can be also be found on many official form you fill out for govt, jobs, surveys, etc.

Another interesting difference I found in Black Americans and Black Europeans, were how we would acknowledge each other. Maybe you have noticed how two Black Americans, who have never met before may nod/smile/greet each other.. no matter in what country they cross paths. First and foremost, running into anyone who speaks English (of any race), is comforting abroad. An American outside of the US is an easy find, but bumping into another Black American is sometimes such a rarity, that you almost feel like you ran into your actual sister. How can you not be happy to see your family? But, for Black Europeans, I was told that I may not receive that mutual greeting. Because of their diverse nationality of their near ancestors (Sudanese, Caribbean, Egyptian), meeting someone from their home country trumps seeing someone of the same color.

I’m curious in knowing how any other cultures or races interact upon meeting, as Black Americans do? How do you define yourself, or do you? The comment box is open below.

*any racial bashing will be deleted


5 thoughts on “The Melting Pot Outside of the US

  1. Actually I am Hispanic. Half Puertorican half Cuban. At least when I meat another Puertorican (I lived in PR for most of my life) I feel like I am meeting a long lost cousin..and they treat me the same. We talk about life back home and struggles where we are at.. (currently teaching English in South Korea). I can see though how European blacks might act differently. Actually after being in South Korea for over 2 years, when I see foreigners on the street…90% of them ignore me…it’s kinda sad cause the reality is that this country is very exclusive at times… I also had a question you have mentioned the “compound” a few times, what does that mean exactly? Is it a place where other foreigners get together?

    • Glad you could relate to my post! That was the one thing I loved about Korea, was having instant “family” away from home.. I think with so many foreigners in central Seoul, a lot of folks get passed w/o acknowledgement.

      In Saudi, most of the foreigners are housed basically in their own walled and guarded cities (compounds). Most have restaurants, gyms, pools, and small grocery stores. They are incredibly expensive, unless your company foots the bill. Usually this is the case for contractors, nurses, and govt. workers. Few teachers luck out. However, I live on the outside

  2. I just wanted to comment on your “calling yourself black, instead of African-American!” I love that! It just erks me to no end when I hear black people saying they are African-American to be politically correct! Most of my black friends say exactly what you’ve said. I don’t know where my ancestors are from, I’ve never been to Africa, etc.

    It would be like me calling myself a Dutch-German-English-French-American. Hahahahah. I’ve never been to Europe and only call myself an American, like you do!

    A close friend from Trinidad and Tobago told me of times when people would call her African-American, and she would get offended! Hahahahah. And my friend from Ghana. They both are like, you can call me black, but never call me American! I’m Ghanaian (or Trinidadian)! And that is their reply to those who call them African-American. Good for them!

    My friend who is half Indian and half Native American lets people off of the hook when they call her Indian (when they mean Native American!) Only, because of that other 50% that’s from India. She has both cultures, and many times she says she is American because she was born and raised here!

    It gets confusing, but thanks to people like you (and me) we can share the knowledge.

    Keep up the good work on this blog of yours and also in your teaching. Inshallah you will come back to the States with a wealth of new knowledge and travel experiences!

    • I really think it’s an American thing. We seem to see more in color, I feel mainly because many either don’t know their ancestry OR the relatives from different countries are just too distant. All of my European friends have close relatives still living in their native country, which is why they seem to tack on the two-part titles or just claim the place they spent the most time in. Thanks for checking out my post and leaving your comment! You gave some good examples 🙂

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