I am a Third Culture Kid – A what?
Let me explain, if you are a fan of my blog, there is a good chance you probably are too. Third Culture Kids (TCK’s) are actually people - as well as a socio-psychological term to describe individuals who were raised in a culture different to the one of their parents and thus, the fusion of the two cultures are thought to create a unique third culture experience of its own. In lay-mans terms – if you are the child of immigrants, expats or service persons you are probably a Third Culture Kid. But, the debate of the difference between an expat and an immigrant will be spared in this article. So in addition to layman terms, we have road man terms, for example, the characterisation of London youth culture by phrases such as “seckle” “mandem” "sket" or “what’s gwarning?” are good examples of the cultural merge between the language of one’s Caribbean immigrant parentage and possibly being born and bred in Brixton.
Now that we have got the semantics out of the way, let’s get to the sauce. I went to a dating event the other day and had the unfortunate displeasure of sitting down with a certain brother called Carlton Banks (oops, sorry, I meant Edward). Upon the exchange of names, he asked me where my name comes from. I explained that the meaning originates from the Swahili language. He then asked if I was from any Swahili speaking country, to which I replied "no." His response was simply “so… you appropriated your name.”
Yes, he said “appropriated” and no, I did NOT make a typo of the word “appreciated.”
Appropriation has become the trigger word for all racial and political debate lately. It is known as the use of items (including names) taken from an oppressed culture - by the oppressing culture, and used in a way that is insensitive or lacking respect to its origins – think bindis on foreheads at Glastonbury, strippers in native American headdresses, fake dreadlock hats or a Kardashian with cane/cornrows.
The word has become the source AND THE SAUCE of social media debates; often finding its use in the ever infamous comment section of fashion articles to socio-political commentary pieces; or under a picture of Nkechi Diallo AKA Rachel Dolezal (yes, the bitch done got herself an African name!) on some wiki- definition site.
That night, “appropriation” and it’s definition was now the sauce that soured over my fries as I sat at the table going over realization that this was the end of the road for Edward entertaining me. In case you didn’t know (I’m being sarcastic if this is your first time reading my blog), being Black is pretty much synonymous with being of the African Disapora, so I was pretty much confused (and offended) as to how my Swahili name was an example of taking a piece of an oppressed culture out of context and lacking the ability to properly understand or respect its origins – when I am a part of the origins!
Then it dawned on me, to Edward I was Black, but I was British first, and in his view I had inherited the *glorious* (insert sarcasm) British colonial history too. In his eyes I was a colonizer, maybe a Columbus even (had he been British). He had created a space to distance the diaspora from Africa, a space that allowed him to classify me as a Dolezal, heck he may as well have called me Kamaria Kardashian.
This is just one of the irritations that Third Culture Kids experience; always having to define your identity. Identity is not given. You may be Black, but you have to prove to be Pro-Black. You may be Black, but you might need to define if you are Benin Black, Barbados Black, Brixton Black, Beverly Hills Black or fuck it…Carlton Banks Black. In less poetic terms (insert sarcasm), Edward was fucking fucked up and clearly missed out on the “Roots right of passage” – you know the part in your childhood, where (I had assumed) every black parent punished you with a week long screening of the psychological trauma of Slavery. Something, I later came to show appreciation for; especially in this moment of being accused of appropriation.
Appreciation or more specifically enculturation is why I was given a Swahilli name. The same reason Malcolm had an X and Cassius Clay became Ali (and the fricking greatest - might I add). It was a homage to our true home, an act often taken up by acculturating individuals.
Psychologists such as John Berry refer to enculturation as one of the outcomes of acculturation (very similar words, but very different meanings - please don't get the two confused). Acculturation is the psychological change the results from two cultures colliding at an intersection. Resulting with outcomes of either assimilation (taking on the new culture), integration (accepting both cultures) or enculturation (enriching yourself in your own culture). Since the 1800s acculturation has been scientifically studied and has shown relationships with worsening mental health amongst immigrant populations, whilst ethnic identification or enculturation has shown positive effects on wellbeing, self-esteem and academic achievement. It is no wonder that everybody and their cousins want a piece of this positivity which can sometimes infringe on the intellectual property rights of Black culture.
Edward was probably named after the British prince, whether HIS name was an act of appropriation or appreciation – I do not know - but what I do know is that he certainly was not my Prince charming.