Friday 28 October 2016

The Weekly Read: Irish or Nigerian? Why can't I be both?

Zainab Boladale

Published 19/06/2015 | 10:48

Zainab Boladale (pictured right)
Zainab Boladale (pictured right)

"You can’t expect families like my own to feel integrated and accepted, and then tell their children that the only country they have lived in should still be considered foreign."

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As a young person who naturally embraces the Irish culture I grew up with, alongside the Nigerian culture I was born into, I find it interesting that far too many people are ready to challenge the fact that someone like myself can identify as Irish and Nigerian because they don’t seem to think that these two worlds should be put together.

I am one of the many Nigerian young adults that have lived in this country since before they were of schooling age and knows more about Ireland than their place of birth.

However, it is difficult for me to understand that other people are so readily willing to strip me of my Irish identity due to the fact that I am black or that I was born in Nigeria.

While the idea of some people having two countries to call home is not a new thing, I think Ireland still has a long way to go when it comes to accepting these people as their own.

Many people of various nationalities have made a life for themselves in Ireland and have gone on to plant and grow their family trees here.

You can’t expect families like my own to feel integrated and accepted, and then tell their children that the only country they have lived in should still be considered foreign.

I know that some people reading this might argue that once you are born in a country then that is what your nationality is and that is were you allegiance should lie.

However, does that mean that my brother and sister who were born in Ireland should only identify as Irish and deny their Nigerian background just because they weren’t born there?

When you have dual nationality you will forever feel split between the two worlds that are your home. However the people in it will make your home feel alien to you.

I have grown accustomed to protecting myself with an in-depth explanation about how I was born in X, raised in Y, and my lack of an accent makes me sound like I’m from Z, but really I feel both X&Y.

I’m readily prepared with this explanation because it saves time and means that I am less likely to get irritated when someone tries to make a statement about how you can’t be black and Irish/African and Irish/Nigerian because that isn’t a “thing”.

What annoys me even more is the fact that my younger brother and sister, who were both born in the south-west region of Ireland, are forever being questioned about their Irish identity because of the tell-tale colour of their skin or the fact that they are constantly being labelled because they don’t talk or act like the African stereotypes that circulate social media.

No, people with dual nationalities are not trying to adopt a second culture and claim it as their own, it just happens to be the culture that they’ve always known.

There are days where I find myself wishing my cultural identity and nationality didn’t have to contradict so much, but I’ve come to the realisation that while others may choose to not understand it, it is not up to me to try and force them to.

Rather it is up to me to inform them and be happy with the two cultures that make me who I am.

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