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

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