Lately, I have been thinking who am I and where do I belong? I think in life we all go through these phases. The conclusion I came to was that I have been code switching all my life. I grew up in an environment where I was encouraged to speak English over my mother tongue Shona. I went to primary school that was predominantly White. I was one of the few Blacks in my grade. Then I went high school and it was predominantly Black.
I could barely speak my mother tongue at the time but did understand it but it was a very basic understanding. When I tried to speak it, I was specifically told by my schoolmates not to speak it. That still haunts me till this day. I was embarrassed by this and still am. I felt as if I was not Black enough or my Black card had been revoked or something.
As I mentioned, in my household I was encouraged to speak English because it seen as being educated and the “Good Black”. For years this affected me and I could not take pride in my Blackness because as an African, language is such an integral part of our identity, our rebellion and our culture.
My younger self believed that I was failing at being Black. I was stuck in a rock and hard place because at times it seemed I was being shunned for not speaking Shona fluently. Yet I did not completely fit with in with our race. There are certain things that a Black women get, something as minute as patting your weave or the use of the word “girl”. I get so excited when I hear my friends say “girl” because I know the tea is going to steaming hot…LOL!!!
This dilemma I was in really affected my Black womanhood and me. When I reached my twenties I met more people like me and it was refreshing. I felt that I had met my tribe. I even made friends that liked historically white things but spoke the most perfect Shona. They were considered coconuts and weird as well. My older brother who is pro – Black, Black conscious and has an obsession with Tupac but my Shona is better than his. I realized that as much as I had code switched I had been looking at being Black so narrowly. This taught me that my Shona may not be the best but I’m Black af. I could not believe for all these years I believed and perpetuated the lie that there is one way to be Black.
There are so many ways to be Black and I love that about my race. I find the complexities and nuances about Blackness to be amazing. I love learning from Afrofuturists , Blerds, Black rock n rollers and so on. Being Black is more than a stereotype or a caricature and I’m so glad I learnt and embraced that.