being a child of the diaspora, the debate about my identity can rage on indefinitely. how african am i if i've never even been to africa? can i claim to be caribbean just because my parents are from there? do i want to be seen as british when i face racism here?

in 2005 i came up with the nifty idea that i am from the atlantic ocean. the trade triangle sums me up quite well, so why not just drop me in the middle of it? the idea for an oceanic identity came to me while i was in NY and going to a lot of slam-esque poetry readings [you. know. the. kiiiiiiiiiiiind ofpoetryi'mtalkingboooooooooooout]. many of the poets i saw told stories about their experience as black americans. it hit me then, and perhaps as a recent anthropology graduate it hit me harder than it might've otherwise done, that the black american and black british experiences are similar in some ways, and oh so different in others. just like when i'm in the caribbean, i felt quite british. still, i didn't choose to proclaim my britishness, it didn't say enough, and so the atlantic ocean thing just kinda stuck.

to this day i get annoyed when people ask me if i'm english. the answer to that question is no. surprisingly, the answer to that question is out of my little black hands. according to the powers that be, english is an ethnicity, not a nationality. so you can only be english if you are white, and if you are black then you can only be british [check the census forms, me no lie]. again, i'm in no hurry to claim a country that does not want me to and so i invariably check the 'black caribbean' box. although the signs hung in english windows in the 50s read "no blacks, no irish, no dogs", the descendants of those irish immigrants can now tick the 'english' box on the census form with no questions asked. and so they should: hardly anyone from england is english through and through. this country is a nation full of 4th, 5th and 6th generation scottish, irish and welsh immigrants.

during a heated debate in one of my anthropology lectures, our teacher explained to the class that we have the power to self-identify, and it is our definition that counts. it reminded me of a moment during one of my geography classes in high school where two girls, that i would have identified as south asian, spoke about themselves. one girl's family was from guyana, and she identified as black caribbean. one girl's family was from kenya, and she identified as indian. who was right? they both were. the truth is that identity is, and always has been, more patchwork quilt than blanket. it is inherently messy, and it is only getting messier. this suits me just fine.

so i will continue to claim my britishness when i'm not on british soil; cheer england on during the rugby and football, but not the cricket; balk at the very idea of englishness; eat fish and chips; drink vitamalt and listen to a smattering of hip-hop. being british is no longer something i feel the need to reject, and it would be silly to. besides, whatever i might say, my sense of humour [which is connected to the truth] always betrays the part of my quilt that is unmistakably shepherd's pie. i never feel more british than when i'm laughing.

on that note, i leave you with the wonderful we are klang, and a song about racial identity. hilarious.

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